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Posts Tagged ‘Listen More’

R U Paying attention?

I’ve paid attention recently to how much attention my team is paying to the topic of paying attention.  We are very concerned that our audience won’t pay attention if we don’t offer some sort of mental break, exercise, or change of pace every 20 minutes.  One of my colleagues suggested adult learner attention spans are equivalent to TV entertainment attention spans.

TV entertainment attention spans!  In my case, that’s channel surfing; DVR’ing to fast-forward through commercials; and cell phone multi-tasking.

But in the sales profession?  Making a living to pay the cable TV bill?  I sure hope we still have the ability to pay attention.  How about you?  Do you need a quick break from reading this 600 word post?  Yep, it’s exactly 600 words.  Welcome to my world LoL!  (A Peek Inside).

OK – may I regain your attention, please?

Did you see the story recently about the Silicon Valley high school that requires students to store their cell phones in an individual, locked bag when they arrive in the morning?  The bags are unlocked by the administrators and the phones returned to the students at the end of the day.  The time in between?  Two expectations: (1) Pay attention and (2) socialize.

When the students were interviewed for the story it was surprising (and refreshing) to hear them say that after a short adjustment, they actually like the approach; they even said they enjoy conversing with the other students.  Imagine that!  Oh, and from a learning standpoint, their academic performance is up.  It’s amazing what can be done when we pay attention, true?

What’s that?  Can you take a quick mental break?  Well, if this little ditty isn’t holding your attention for 600 words that’s my fault; not yours.  It’s OK.  You wouldn’t be the first to say, “Gary, you’re killing me!”

Permission to resume?  Thank you.

My company’s leaders are fully vested in addressing adult learning and behavior change tools, tactics and techniques.  But truth be told, when we get into a deep dive discussion around eBooks; micro-learning; just-in-time video training; etc. I have a hard time paying attention.

As a career sales professional I guess I have been programmed to operate like my prospects operate; if the topic is relevant and the discussion interesting, I will pay attention.  As soon as either departs from things I feel are important, my attention departs too.

I suppose it boils down to the difference between “have to” vs. “want to”.  Those high school students have to go to school.  The educators (and parents) want them to want to go to school.  Therein lays the challenge.

At my company, our sales reps have to be trained; leadership wants them to want to be trained.  And therein lays the challenge.  It’s not unique to my company nor is it unique to the sales profession.

Attention spans can and do fade quickly.  As one example, it’s interesting to me that the once popular, mega-trend of gamification; touted as the do-all and end-all in getting sales reps to pay attention to their daily prospecting tasks and quota performance, is now out of vogue.  Guess the reps got bored with the game.  Maybe they decided the game benefited their overseers more than it benefited them.

What’s that you say?  You haven’t heard about the downward trend of gamification?  Perhaps you weren’t paying attention.

Congratulations!  If you’re reading this you have made it through exactly 600 words, including my signature line below.  Thank you for your attention!

GAP

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Eureka!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary©, the word eureka is used to express triumph on a discovery.   Ah “discovery”… how much has been said and written about sales rep discovery in particular?

Recently, I had my “eureka!” moment about sales rep discovery.  It was a bit more modest than their history of the word:

When people exclaim Eureka! they are reenacting a legendary event in the life of the Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes. While wrestling with the problem of how to determine the purity of gold, he made the sudden realization that the buoyancy of an object placed in water is equal in magnitude to the weight of the water the object displaces. According to one popular version of the legend, he made his discovery at a public bathhouse, whereupon he leapt out of his bath, exclaimed “Heureka! Heureka!” (“I have found it!”), and ran home naked through the streets…

No, I didn’t run naked through the streets.

During one, 5-day span I finished reading the book GAP Selling © by Keenan; had breakfast with my friend and former colleague, Gary Givan; and attended a SMM Connect webinar about the lack of value selling.  Then… Eureka!  I discovered (in my own mind anyway) why sales professionals do such a poor job of discovery.

It’s not just my opinion.  During the SMM Connect webinar, research was cited from the article published all the way back on August 29, 2012 by the research firm Forrester, “Executive Buyer Insight Study: Defining the GAP between Buyers and Sellers” by Scott Santucci.  The conclusion?  Most business executives feel meeting with sales reps is a complete waste of time.  They don’t believe we are trying to understand their needs.

Kennan’s book and the SMM Connect webinar both offered intricate (aka overly complicated) training approaches to sales rep discovery.  I believe little of their training survives “game speed” when we’re in front of a prospect.

During breakfast with Gary Givan, we were “talking shop” about sales rep discovery.  If Gary is not the most skilled sales professional I have ever met, he’s in the top 5.   I discovered his perspective on what trainers and authors offer on sales rep discovery – they always over-complicate things because they have books or consulting engagements to sell.

Eureka – that’s it!  We’re making it too complicated.  That’s why I advocate a simplified, repeatable approach consisting of 4, count ‘em, 4 things:

  1. Listen to what the prospect is trying to accomplish.  It may sound like this, “Gary, the business problem we’re trying to solve is…”  They will tell us IF we will simply listen.
  2. Take good notes.  Customers speak in customer language.  Sales people may not understand right away. That’s OK.  If we are truly listening, the prospect will be patient with us; often help us to understand.  When we get to this point, they WANT us to understand.
  3. Ask clarifying and NEVER “qualifying” questions.  Prospects hate to be “qualified”.  You and I hate to be “qualified” by some sales schmo when we’re buying something!
  4. Don’t try to solve during the discovery meeting – no “pre-mature selling”.  Let’s offer them the business courtesy of giving their situation some thought.  They will respect our efforts to match their level of thought.  This earns respect (if not trust and a relationship).

That’s it.  Be patient and don’t sell during discovery.  Easy to say is some social media post, I know.   But be patient and keep things simple nonetheless.  The prospect might just find your approach refreshing.

GAP

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Curiosity; Cluelessness; & Authenticity…

True enough – that heading is a mouthful.  Conciseness is an art that does not come naturally to me.  Evidently, Pascal either:

I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.

Unlike Pascal, I was no child prodigy; anything but.  What I remember about my childhood however, built a foundation for my future sales career.  As it turns out, I am naturally curious coupled with being comfortably clueless.

I’ve always been comfortable with my cluelessness.  It drives my wife crazy though.  She is amazed I can make it home from work each day without getting lost!  But I digress…

Sales &Marketing Management © magazine is a popular read of mine.  In my opinion, the magazine offers thought leadership about my trade that is pragmatic; actionable; and backed by just enough science to avoid tuning me off as being too theoretical.

This article by Randy Sabourin, a specialist in helping teams and individuals communicate under pressure, caught my attention: https://salesandmarketing.com/content/every-great-conversation.  Permit me to paraphrase my understanding of his main point:

Attention – Curiosity – Empathy – Clarity are techniques to address the Avoid-Approach behavior many prospects portray when a sales person tries to contact, engage, and ultimately sell them.

More by accident than by plan, I have developed these attributes, and then some (e.g. cluelessness plus authenticity) that have served me well over the years.  But of them all, authenticity is crucial.

The TV character Colombo became symbolic of inauthentic cluelessness, true?  Everyone in the viewing audience knew his detective style was a façade.  In my opinion, our clients and prospects can detect inauthenticity coming a mile away.  That may trigger the Avoid-Approach behavior Randy Sabourin writes about.

So here’s the thing…  I believe prospects prefer sales people who are authentically curious about their needs and interests.  Prospects prefer sales people who give them our undivided attention (e.g. no multiple monitors; side chats; or multi-tasking of any kind).  My friend and former colleague Adam Katzenmeyer put it this way:

You only have to tell me twice, once.

Prospects prefer sales people who can participate in a business meeting grounded on business language vs. technical; acronym-laden; product pitch oriented; vendor-speak.  My company refers to this skill as “business acumen”.  We believe our people need it, but don’t yet have it.  I know I’m dating myself, but Irv Kupcinet called it:

The art of the conversation.

And here’s the “magic”!  When the prospect believes we are attentive to them; genuinely interested in their situation; make it easy for them to converse with us; and we come across as curious and empathetic to their realities… even if we are a little clueless, that’s OK.

Throughout my career I have had prospect after prospect notice how hard I was trying to keep up with them; trying to understand their needs; their priorities.  And when those moments occurred, they would “take me under their wing” and help me sell them!

It may sound backwards, but “closing” the sale actually begins best by “opening” the conversation.  If we listen – and if we’re authentically curious about the prospect’s business – they will tell us exactly what they will buy + when + why + how they will justify their investment.  They will literally close themselves, if we are skilled at opening up the conversation.

I’ve always been willing to let my prospects help me; being naturally curious along with being a bit clueless.  I’ve had no other choice.  But I’m curious… What about you?

GAP

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Experiences and expectations…

Those darn clients and their expectations…  I’m over four decades into the sales profession and I still don’t get how the client ticks.  Does client loyalty still exist?  Or have buying patterns become solely based on quickest; cheapest; and most convenient?  Maybe it’s me – I’m a client, too.

Maybe it’s the way other vendors confuse them (and us).  I mean, we have all experienced those quirky processes and procedures other vendors have set up:

Why is it that it takes only a few minutes and no paperwork to pick up or drop off a rental car at Hertz’s #1 Club Gold, but twice that time and an annoying name/address form to check into a Hilton hotel?  Are they afraid you’ll steal the room? 

Michael Tracy

Who do you think has set the bar for delighting clients and exceeding expectations today?  Is it Amazon that has captured our loyalty?  Is it all those craft brewers that are everywhere?  How about Google?  Google responds to any and every type of inquiry we make no matter what.  Has Google become so ubiquitous that we don’t even think about them as exceeding client expectations?

As coffee shops and destinations go Starbucks seems to be continuing their dominance.  Although just this morning I had what I would describe as my first disappointing experience at a Starbucks from a client expectation standpoint.  The barista took my order and simply forgot to fill it.

Yes, she was busy; the store was understaffed; the 4 employees had to cover both the counter and the drive-thru.  OK – it’s just coffee, so I was patient and pleasant while standing there.  Since I wasn’t in a hurry, it became almost amusing.  Almost.  In their haste to keep up, they all four saw me standing there; they all four assumed their colleague was filling my order.  One of them finally noticed that she was filling orders from other clients that came in after I was standing there.  That’s when it was finally my turn – “Tall Blonde roast; no room”.

I can’t say this simple experience won’t impact my future preference.  In the 21st century, any and every simple experience can impact clients’ future buying preferences, don’t you think?  David Siegel does:

Do 80 percent of what you need to do, and 100 percent of your customers will go someplace else.

You see, mornings are my time for writing.  And not every morning because like you I have this prior commitment I must tend to from time to time called my full-time job.  So, when I have the opportunity to spend an hour or so reflecting and writing about things that occur in my world, a bad customer service experience can get in the way.

Yes, I will return to Starbucks in the future; but maybe not this location.  Every time I drive by I will remember that “last time…”  There’s always another coffee shop up ahead.

Such neglectful inconveniences happen almost daily:

Why is it that Land’s End remembers your last order and your family members’ sizes, but after 10 years of membership, you are still being solicited by American Express to join?

Michael Tracy

I’m an ex-AMEX client.  They “disappointed and inconvenienced” me once in a memorable way for all the wrong reasons.  And there’s always another credit card company up ahead.

So, I ask – how loyal are you to your providers when they misunderstand your expectations and provide you with a disappointing experience?  Is there always another provider up ahead for you?

GAP

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“That Guy”, again…

I have written about this side of me before (see http://thequoteguys.com/2014/04/that-man/).  Not the proudest time in my personal or professional life.  In a competitive world when there is seemingly a lot at stake; sometimes we feel it is OK if we “have to do what we have to do”:

David didn’t beat Goliath with a whiteboard. 

Brad Feld

Here’s the good news:  If we have demonstrated behaviors we are ashamed of in the business world (or any other part of the world for that matter), those behaviors, embarrassments or failures don’t have to define us forever.

Life is change…

Growth is optional…

Choose wisely.

Karen Kaiser Clark

Still, those tendencies may lurk underneath; I know mine do and recently did – again, not my proudest moment.

I am on a cross-functional team working to support a strategic initiative at my company (which I have also written about  http://thequoteguys.com/2018/03/strategic-direction/ ).  One member on the team, from another department, has several different views than I on both the initiative and how we should work together.  OK, we have our differences; happens every day in your world too.

Normally, our disagreements are tempered by the fact that we live in different cities and communicate via phone and email.  When “that guy” begins to surface during a disagreement, I can put my phone on mute and vent; or I can write my scathing email reply and then push “delete” instead of “send”.

But recently, he was in my office and came over to my desk for a visit.  I appreciated the gesture and told him so.  The conversation started with customary pleasantries… the weather, his flight, sports.  Then the topic turned to our strategic initiative.  He wanted an argument.  Argument?  Count me in!

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

Unknown Sage

I don’t know, maybe this is a result of our generational gap; he a millennial (e.g. a bright young man with little real-world experience) me a baby boomer (e.g. a grumpy old man with plenty of real-world experience).  Maybe I could blame it on the horses as in the opening to Chapter Two of my book:

Dedicated to those business professionals who know the difference between the smell of horse manure in the barn vs. the “sound” of horse manure in the office.  Not everyone can do this for a living.

Maybe I just like a good argument once in a while.  Regardless, when my boss called and asked about the encounter I knew “that guy” was sited – again.  No honey in sight.

Coincidentally, my colleague’s manager works on my floor.  In fact, she walks past me many mornings on the way to her office.  I don’t really know her – just an occasional exchange of “good mornings”.  She wanted to see for herself if I was the ogre her direct report said I was. We had a very pleasant conversation – “that guy” was gone.

Today, the cross-functional team is back on track.  My young colleague and I are communicating on a professional even pleasant level.  And I’ll be more careful with any future, in-person encounters:

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. 

The second-best time is today. 

Chinese Proverb

Oh, I still bite.  But when it comes to horse manure at the office, I have enough real-world experience to “choose wisely” and seek growth.  After all, there’s not much time left in my professional career to grow that tree.

GAP

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Sounds complicated…

Ever have that feeling on the buy-side of a sales presentation?  The more the sales rep said, the harder he tried, the worse things got?  How much of our business marketplace do you think is occupied by “average people”?

I consider myself an average person – which begs the question, “What on earth is an average person”?  I guess “it all depends”.  According to Wikipedia:

…as chronicled in his bestseller The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen, Kevin O’Keefe successfully completed a nationwide search for the person who was the most statistically average in the United States during a multi-year span starting in 2000. Newsweek proclaimed of the book, “The journey toward run-of-the-mill has never been so remarkable.”

Looks like Kevin O’Keefe remarkably over-complicated his search for an average person.

OK, hard to define perhaps but if you believe as I do that masses of opportunities are staffed by average people tasked with making buying decisions, then how effective are we at conveying our sales message to these average persons?

In the technology sales profession, we easily digress into a language of acronyms, technical terminology, and over-complication, true?  The end result often confuses the prospective buyer – and a confused prospect doesn’t buy.  They probably say to themselves, “This seems complicated; sounds expensive; I better wait.”  And Poof!  There goes our deal.

This language of confusion isn’t limited to the technology profession.  I recently listened to a discussion about making coffee and the various methods, machines and machinations that can go into it:

Rudnicki’s Nobel Principle:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all.

Unknown Sage

To add to the mess, many sales people pile on “the demo”; delivered by the “Technical Sales Consultant”; and that’s when our prospect switches to Coke.

Truth be told; I do coach my clients to leverage visual-based selling techniques to convey technically complex topics conceptually.  I like to follow Stephen R. Covey’s view so the prospective buyer has context in case we have to delve down into more complicated details.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stephen R. Covey

Most of the time I prefer to create my own visuals vs. relying on my marketing and/or product specialists because they typically add methods, marketing automation machines, and machinations  (aka features, statistics, and 3rd party research) that in an effort to clarify – actually confuse.

I will on many occasions reuse visuals created by someone else, so long as I can easily understand them.  You see, if I as an average person can get it, the odds are high my prospective client can too.  However, my buyers remain wary:

GAP‘s Dictionary of Computereeze:

Salesman – A user-friendly conveyor of highly technical, data processing concepts in an easy-to-understand, though sometimes slightly inaccurate fashion.

Trying to keep things simple (and accurate) has served me well; I believe the skill of getting to the essence of a prospective buyer’s situation, in layman’s terms, is a key to successful sales transactions.  Here is an example of one of my favorite pie charts that reflects this principle of simplicity:
pieSo I ask…  Take a look at the PowerPoint slides; handouts; pie charts; and websites you leverage to sell your products and services.  Was your content written by marketing specialists, technical writers, and product experts?  Does it clearly convey your main point?

Or, does it cause your prospect to think, “Sounds complicated – I’m switching to Coke”?

GAP

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Style and Subtlety – Boom!

Yep – did it again.  Yesterday I fell into that all-to-common digital trap of our modern century – I blasted a colleague (and friend) on IM.  Ate those digital words this morning:

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. 

Unknown Sage

It was the usual setting:  I was digitally multi-tasking; fast and furious.  It’s quarter-end; a stressful time that comes around… oh… just every 90 days (funny how that works).  The combination meant I could, “double my pleasure – double my fun”:

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. 

Ashleigh Brilliant

I texted him a question; he texted back an answer; I didn’t like his answer; he didn’t like my question; I asked for an alternative; he said not a chance…  A frequent, digital argument expressed with directness and written in digital shorthand; punctuated with emoticons; all behind the shield of our monitors.

Collegial banter?  Depends on who’s the banterer and who’s the banteree.  That type of typing can quickly cut to raw emotions lurking nearer the surface during stressful times such as quarter-end.

We were briefly embattled with a “my way or the highway”; “I’m right – you’re wrong”; “compromise is for sissies”; “I eat Marines for breakfast” blast-fest.  Totally devoid of style or subtlety.  U2?  Been there done that I bet.  Not one of my proudest moments, digital or otherwise.

Style and subtlety; certainly diminishing dimensions in today’s digital era.  It’s actually worse than that.

Seemingly gone are the days of subtlety, statesmanship, irony, even sarcasm.  Texts and emails are written in black and white; read as black OR white.  Intentions behind the expressions are easily misinterpreted; feelings easily hurt; and everyone seems to have barbed retorts at the ready.

Even our political process has degenerated into a continuous barrage of confrontational accusations and insults vs. the skilled and stylish statesmanship of centuries past.  Oh they were direct back in the day, but within the context of a statesmanship image coupled with face-to-face bravery vs. digital cowardliness:

A story is told of a Woman Member of Parliament who, after an extensive tirade at a social function, scornfully told the Prime Minister, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk”, to which Churchill replied, “And you Madam, are ugly.  But I shall be sober tomorrow.”

Today, we don’t know if the statesman’s statement was sarcasm or irony having not been there to witness the state of his drunkenness nor the appearance of his accuser.  Because the event was face-to-face vs. digital, there could easily have been expressions of irony or sarcasm that dulled the barbs of the barbs.  Stylish statesmen of centuries past were able communicators and skilled in the art of avoiding black OR white confrontations.

Statesmanship, style and subtlety of the 20th century?  Boom!  Sacrificed for the sake of today’s digital age.  Replaced by the barrage of black OR white hyperbole perfect for IMs, emails, emoticons, and the evening news.

In business, should we even care?  Can we stop hiding behind our monitors?  Is subtlety mightier than the digital sword?  I think our favorite, Unknown Sage still believes so:

Subtlety is saying what you think, but then leaving before anyone really understands what you meant.

Digital communications technology can be wonderful – when used properly.  It can also be barbed weapons; hurting feelings; killing relationships when not.  Too easy and too often taken as black OR white.  Agreed?  Well, if not… I’m right and you’re wrong!

GAP

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Speak the language?

Today, business discourse in general and sales interactions in particular, involves asking questions, true?  Lots and lots of questions, yes?  See what I mean?  Point made?  ‘nuff said?

OK, OK, I’m simply trying to demonstrate that today’s business language involves asking a great many questions.  The more skilled we are in the language of questions, the more successful we can be.

Think about our doctor and her ability to diagnose ailments.  Doctors ask us lots and lots of questions so we can participate in the process more so than simply offering a body part for repair.  Our tax accountants ask questions; our lawyers too.  Many professions involve the asking of many questions; but not all.

Contrast our interactions with our doctors to that of our auto mechanics.  With the latter, there is less question/answer dialog, isn’t there?  Many auto mechanics have drop boxes where we fill out a form, leave our keys and expect them to fix the problem.  “I hear a noises coming from the right-front-end” might be the only clue we offer our mechanic – expecting him to perform a miracle from there (and hopefully, inexpensively too).

Of course, auto mechanics don’t always welcome our assistance:

            Labor Rates 

    Regular                                 $ 24.50

    If you wait                               30.00

    If you watch                             35.00

    If you help                               50.00

    If you laugh                             75.00

Unknown Sage

In my profession, sales people ask our prospects a plethora of questions.  However, many times we are not asking questions because of our natural curiosity and true interest in our prospect’s situation. Too many times our questions are more self-serving; more product-feature-focused; more trial-closing-oriented.  Did we not read the book?

THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey 

HABIT 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Let’s turn the table.  Have you ever noticed the times we’re comfortable with the questions we’re being asked, and the other times questioning irritates us?  How about those forecasting calls?  How about the times when a subject matter expert needed for our deal asks first if our deal is even “qualified”?  Same question our Sales Manager asks – often!  Some questions can be very irritating, don’t you agree?

Maybe we all can agree that it’s not so much “what” we ask; rather it’s “how” we ask it.  It’s our tone of voice; choice of words; the directness; the quantity; the repetition of our questions.  I mean, it’s not supposed to feel like an interrogation (unless I suppose, we are interrogators – or Sales Managers).

If our dentist displayed the same chairside manner that we do during sales calls, we would become a totally toothless society.  I mean, if we applied the same tone, language, and directness we use in our sales role to our social life, we would all become hermits ostracized by family, friends and potential companions who would consider us rude and totally uncouth!  Not to mention our toothlessness.  But I digress.

There are also times where we ask questions about things the prospect finds obvious.  That’s not good:

In a visit to a utility company to study its best practices, teams from Sprint Corporation in Westwood, Kansas, were shocked to learn that some corporate cultures weren’t quite as rigid as theirs.  When the Sprint teams asked questions regarding dress code and attendance policies, the firm responded that its policies were come to work, and wear clothes. 

Bob Nelson

So I submit to my fellow sales professionals for your professional consideration – shall we add a little more professionalism back into our profession?

GAP

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Interrupted Attention…

That term was used during a recent webinar.  They were explaining the modern phenomena of people being fixated to their electronic devices.  And in the office – people operating 2-3-4 computer monitors at a time; multitasking throughout meetings.  The presenter presented presentation techniques to address this phenomenon.  I don’t think the audience was paying attention.

Yes, yes, I know – in 2015 multitasking is not just an accepted practice; it has become an expected practice.  I sometimes worry when a client finds me giving them my complete and undivided attention, they are thinking I’m some kind of whacko!

Masquerading as a better way to put everyone in touch, e-mail (and voice-mail) have become incessant distractions, a nonstop obligation and a sure source of stress and anxiety.  

I expect that a public statement by the Surgeon General is in the offering. 

 Seth Shostak

I’ve written often on the impact technology is having on our ability to be smart; to think; to be prompt; to be polite.  We all can relate to those occasions when we’re “caught”, can’t we?  Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But does it persist?

I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

I can remember a time when it was more difficult to work with children because of their low attention span.  It used to be that we would complain that our kids are hopped-up on sugar; wound-up with adrenaline; hard to catch their attention; hard to get them to focus.  Maybe this is the source of stress and anxiety Seth Shostak was referring to:

Two children were playing in the back yard when their father came to the porch and yelled at them for the third time to come in for dinner.  The one child turned to the other and asked, “I can’t remember; which one am I?  Jesus Christ or God Dammit?”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world it seems to me that the levels of interrupted attention among children and adults are reversed.  But when the stress and anxiety of continuously multi-tasking wears us down, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers us this assistance:

Thing to say when you get caught sleeping at your computer:

“Did you ever notice the sound that comes out of the keyboard when you put your ear real close?”

Raise your head slowly and say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Comparatively, children seem to be a little more attentive today, a little more focused on accomplishing tasks at hand; a little easier to work with. Today, it’s the adults that have “become their TV”; “become their in-box”, “become their phone”.  And we’re not particularly concerned about being rude with our multi-tasking either.

Well, if both adults and children have interrupted attention spans these days, at least I can rely on my horse.  He offers me his best in memory-retention.  Yes, horses are definitely the best – as suggested by Elmer Wieland, founder of America’s finest precision mounted, youth drill teams (see http://westernaires.org/about/ ):

The more I know adults, the better I like children.  The more I know children, the better I like horses.

It’s true – Even if I haven’t ridden my horse for a while; even if we haven’t worked in the round pen.  When I put a saddle on his back he doesn’t freak out; he doesn’t spit the bit out of his mouth.  And when I climb on his back, thankfully, he remembers me; remembers it’s OK; and he doesn’t buck me off.

If only our children; our colleagues, and our clients were so attentive.

GAP

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The answer…

Have you noticed how frequently we are occupied today in seeking (or providing) “the answer”?

If you’re like me, many times “the answer” to a stated question or posed problem isn’t quite that simple.  My Father-in-Law, who was a carpenter, would respond to our home improvement feasibility questions with, “It all depends”.  How’s that for a non-answer, answer!

Take the mathematical problem; How much is 1+1?   In the precise, mathematical sense the answer is simple:  2.  In the real world of our business endeavors however, “precise” and “simple” are typically fantasies, true?  Our real world problems can be summarized:

Addendum to Murphy’s Law: 

In precise mathematical terms, 1+1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning seldom if ever. 

Unknown Sage

And Murphy was an optimist.

So if our clients and colleagues today just want “the answer” to thus and so, what are we to do?  If their paradigm is – No discussion; No clarification; No interaction; No time – just give me the answer.  Oh, and by the way – it needs to be the “right answer”.  Oh, and I almost forgot – the faster the better.  What are we to do?  What is the (right) answer to such a problem?  Go ahead –please email it to me.  No, don’t call – I’m too busy to chat – in a hurry – you know.

Nobody is in a rush for the wrong answer. 

Robert D. Cohen

Well OK, Mr. Cohen.  But it seems like everyone is in a hurry.  So I ask again, what are we to do when we’re asked for “the answer” knowing that it “all depends”?

In business today there is in many cases an absence of “right answers” vs. “wrong answers”.  There are actually lots of right ways to do things (and lots of wrong ways too).  Answering business questions today is a thinking game.  If no thinking is required – then that is called a “transaction”.

If a question (aka transaction) does not require our interaction; if it can be self-serviced; that’s what’s known as an App on our Smart Phones; or a url on the Internet.  Anything left over probably requires thought – and thinking probably requires interaction – and interaction definitely requires time.

Whatever the business problem posed today is – there is likely not a singular answer – there are simply advantages and disadvantages to each of several “solutions” to be considered.  And how many of us state that we are in the “solution business”?  (At our company we even have people with Solution Consultant as their business card title.)

But if “solution” is mistaken for a “right answer”; and if a “right answer” is mistaken singularly as “the answer”; then don’t we run the risk of winding up back where we started?  Unknown Sage, help us:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving: 

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”

Maybe answers can be automated.  Is that why we have so many automated call directories when we phonesomeone with a question?  Is technology “the answer”?

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law: 

Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse. 

Unknown Sage

OK, automation is probably not the answer.  Maybe, just maybe the solution is not “the answer” at all.  Maybe the answer is actually taking the time and completing the interactions in order to properly understand “the problem” in the first place.  Maybe the answer is the collaboration around the pros and cons of multiple, applicable answers.

Who da thought?

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website too: www.TheQuoteGuys.com