Pretty Words

15 07 2009

Listening to Sonia Sotomayor retrack her “wise Latina” comments made me think about an old Vince Gill song – Pretty Words.  “They’re just pretty words” seemed about right.  This is often the role of the politician, to say things that make people feel better.  We have limited manner in which to hold them to their words, so we often judge the words based on if we believed what they were saying.  Think of how we now perceive Roger Clemens, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, and the steroid gang.

One of the problems we have as leaders is an overuse of pretty words.  We are often asked questions that can not be answered at that time, thus forcing us to spin a response:

  • Are we having layoffs?
  • Are we selling the company?

While these hurt credibility with the front line, they are necessary to keep some level of sanity and productivity.  Yet, what happens when executive communication seems to be only about spin and pretty words.  If the rank and file feel “pretty words is all he is giving you” then we have a problem with communication and trust.  If these are broken, you can bet productivity is no where near optimal levels.

As executives and leaders we can know, or we can think we know if people are listening.  What I have often seen is that the good ones assume they don’t know and find out – thus reinforcing positive communication.

  • When was the last time you had an outside, independent team assess “trust” in the organization?
  • What would be the value to the organization?
  • What if you hear something you don’t like?

Becoming a Trusted Advisor

12 03 2009

Part of every sales methodology is the phrase “become a trusted advisor.” Yet we devote little time helping people become advisors to our clients, let alone trusted ones. Our sales methodologies are typically geared more towards a scorched earth policy, than a build for the long term approach. Sales people are rewarded for large, upfront contracts that help the company meet short term sales goals. And they are often punished for long sales cycles. Turning over sales reps then makes it more difficult for the next rep, as the client’s first question is “how long will this one be around?”

It is often entertaining to see how this manifests itself with clients. One can not ask (and certainly not beg – which was entertaining to witness), nor expect it. The right is earned over time.

A few things to consider as you are developing your “Trusted Advisor” sales program:
1. Are your people intelligent and insightful about the market and their customers?
2. Can they talk about the customer’s business without selling all the time?
3. Can they put the client’s needs ahead of their own?
4. How well do they listen, and ask insightful questions?
5. Are they likable, and trustworthy?
6. Are your campaigns and people consistent, or opportunistic?

There is a great deal that goes into a “Trusted Advisor” and the program, the people, and the organization need to support long term customer value. To get there, you must has a passion for your client’s goals