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Permanent Impressions

Permanent Impressions

Very seldom do you come across someone in sales who will consciously work on their brand, for the short-term remembrance or long-term benefit.

Tapping into that natural drive—to be remembered—is key for a successful sales or customer service career.

No two people are exactly the same, and no two people ever will be. Knowing that you are a one-of-a-kind is very empowering. Perhaps it motivates you to become well known and recognized for all the things that make you who you are.

Do you want to be known as more than just another passerby, or just another person a customer smiles and interacts with? Are you just another person they follow on social media?

Are you a permanent marker in your customer’s world or are you erasable?

I love the word “Indelible.” It’s the definition of a successful Customer Service Representative. It should be the goal of every salesperson.

So how do you make your permanent mark in a customer’s ledger? How do you keep them coming back for more?

The other day, I picked up a permanent marker and examined it from all angles. This is what I’ve come away with.

How to create permanent impressions:

  1. Work on all surfaces:

A permanent marker is capable of writing on most materials like paper, metal or stone…

  • Be just as flexible, open enough to work with all customers. Adapt to their personalities. If they’re in a rush, help them to get out of the door. If they seem upset, use empathy to connect and solve their issues. Listen to their needs.
  • Go the extra mile. Share product videos, or use social media to brand yourself as a product ambassador. Make your brand unforgettable. Join networking groups or look to meet others with similar interests. Use those opportunities to promote your brand as a sales or customer service specialist.
  • Grade your performance and look for ways to improve. Work through obstacles and continually be proactive in your pursuit. Aim for shorter response times.
  1. Saturate layers:

Permanent markers have a bleed through, seeping through to additional pages.

Apply that concept to your customer base—make a non-erasable impression.

  • Get to know your customer. Not just on the surface level, build deeper relationships. I haven’t phoned or seen my chiropractor for over a year now. I called them the other day and the assistant—Carly—at the front desk recognized my voice, the minute I greeted her. She remembered my name and even asked if I’d finished writing my first novel yet? That’s impressive.
  • Remember names.
  • What are your customer’s interests?
  • What do they value? What matters to your customer?
  • What products are they interested in and why?
  • If you do a great job, your customer will spread the word, creating new business. That’s a bleed through into other pages of their lives.
  1. Make an Impression:

A permanent marker is bold and stands out on the page. The saturated color makes a statement. Back in the sixties and seventies, many celebrities and rock stars used permanent markers to sign autographs, for this very reason.

Be deliberate in your interactions and be aware of your delivery.

  • Use positive language – utilize buzzwords from your industry to get your customer excited about product.
  • Have good product knowledge. Many customers have already done their online research. Be an informative partner that assists them throughout the process.
  • Be aware of any bad habits or repetitive phrases you might use. Ask your colleagues for constructive feedback on your greeting, delivery or appearance. Be open to criticism.

Instead of focusing on closing, focus on helping new customers. Become that permanent fixture in their lives. It’s time to make an impression. Developing your own stamp will build collaborative relationships with your customer.

What’s your permanent mark?


September 6th, 2018 – by Bridget Perrin


Handling Price Objections

Handling Price Objections



Handling Price Objections

By:Dave Anderson

How do you handle price objections? If you’re bereft of ideas in this arena, your only tool to handle price objections will be to lower the price. When you make your living on commission, dropping the price is an expensive way to overcome objections. Yet, salespeople choose this strategy time after time, almost reflexively. However, there is a more effective and profitable alternative: justifying the price.  

1. Justification Rule #1: The more you differentiate your product, your service and yourself from competition, the less price sensitive prospects become—and the easier it is to justify your price. 

2. Justification Rule #2: The less you differentiate your product, your service and yourself from competition, the more price sensitive prospects become—and the tougher it is to justify your price. 

The above rules are simple but profound when guiding you to more profitable sales. Thus, you’ve got to honestly assess what you do throughout the sales process to convincingly differentiate yourself, your product and your company and, thus, justify the price you ask. Here are a few thought starters to help refine your thinking:


A. How does your product knowledge, professional appearance or proficiency at the sales process differentiate you from others in your field? Do you ask the right questions? Do you really listen to the answers? When you present the product, do you focus on what the customer is truly interested in, or do you dump too much information on them and hope they sort it out? If you do a better job of getting the prospect to buy into your character and competence, you’ll have an easier time getting them to buy into what you’re selling and its price. You must find ways to differentiate yourself from every other stereotypical salesperson in the marketplace. 

B. What real advantages does your product have over the competition and do you know enough about it to communicate it effectively? Your product’s advantages are worthless if you don’t know them or do know them but can’t communicate them effectively. The key to selling against the competition is to investigate and determine what the prospect’s hot buttons are: performance, appearance, economy, etc., and then comparing your product to the competitive product in those specific areas of the highest customer interest. Comparing everything your product offers to everything theirs offers is exhausting, confusing and largely irrelevant to the prospect. Few products can withstand the scrutiny of a line-by-line comparison. Determine the prime buying motives, and compare against those lines. This raises your product’s value and, as a consequence justifies the price.

Sales professionals justify the price throughout the sales process, not just when it comes time to play show and tell with the selling figures. They manage the customer’s perception by raising the value of their product through personal, professional skill and selective and effective presentation. You can always lower your price as a last resort to save the sale and make the deal, but doing so shouldn’t be your first impulse once a customer balks. It should be after everything else has failed. After all, any amateur can make a product cheaper. It takes a professional to build enough value to make the price make sense.

Why Learning to Think “We” Not “Me” Can Help Lead You to Ultimate Success

Why Learning to Think “We” Not “Me” Can Help Lead You to Ultimate Success



In business, education, sports, even family life, we are encouraged and rewarded to compete: land the biggest account, reach the top of the bell curve, score the most points, or outperform our siblings. This competitive environment can inadvertently encourage two opposing mindsets.

The first mindset is win-lose: if you get more, that means I get less—so I better get my share first. You think only of yourself and may attempt to win at the expense of others. While you may achieve success in the short-term, eventually you repel the people around you. Trust weakens and productivity wanes.

The second mindset is lose-win: if you get more, there’s nothing I can do, so I’ll just give up. You think of others first and allow them to succeed—sometimes at your own expense. While you may feel safe out of the limelight, eventually you withdraw and resent the success of others.

Neither extreme leads to effectiveness. Only by consistently considering yourself and others when setting expectations, making decisions, and executing on plans will you create the type of atmosphere in which people willingly volunteer their efforts, collaborate, and happily follow your lead. We call this the win-win mindset, or “think we, not me.”

If you recognize yourself in one of the extreme mindsets above, don’t worry. You can develop a “think we, not me” mindset by demonstrating high courage and high consideration in every relationship exchange. Courage is the willingness and ability to speak your thoughts respectfully. Consideration is the willingness and ability to seek and listen to others’ thoughts and feelings with respect.

First, take an inventory of the level of courage and consideration you show in each of your important relationships, then adjust the levels accordingly. For example, you may find that it’s easier to show high courage with people close to you (family members, friends, direct reports) but harder to show that same courage with people you don’t know or with people who have authority over you, such as your boss. For the best results, you’ll want to express both high courage and high consideration in every interaction.

Consider the following ideas to help you balance courage and consideration and “think we, not me” in every relationship:

  1. Identify one important relationship at work and one at home.
  2. Rate yourself on the amount of courage and consideration you show in each relationship (1 = low; 10 = high).
  3. If your courage is low (between 1-5), you may have a lose/win mindset and be thinking “them” without including yourself. To increase your courage . . .
  • Write down and practice your opinions with a trusted friend before sharing them with others.
  • Tell your boss about your latest success, then do it again.
  • Start asking yourself (and writing down) what you want and need—believing that doing so will be in the best interest of everyone.
  • Practice asking for things from others—start with things you’re sure you’ll get to help build your confidence.
  • Commit to contributing one idea in your next meeting.

    4. If your consideration is low (between 1-5), you might have a win/lose mindset and be thinking “me” only. To increase your consideration . . .

  • Wait to speak until several others have shared their ideas.
  • Ask for input before sharing your thoughts.
  • Turn off all devices and make eye contact when talking with people.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Try going with someone else’s decision (in a low-risk situation first) to see how it affects the relationship.

     5. If you’re an overachiever and want a fast track to win-win thinking, try this:

  • Schedule one-on-one time with the people important to you at work and home.
  • Share the scores you gave yourself for courage and consideration.
  • Ask for feedback on how you could increase your courage or consideration.
  • Listen without interrupting, then thank them for the feedback.
  • Act on the feedback you feel is most helpful, and then schedule follow up time with them to assess your progress.

Todd Davis is EVP, Chief People Officer for FranklinCovey and author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work

The Most Important Part of Your Sales Phone Conversation May Not Be What You Think

The Most Important Part of Your Sales Phone Conversation May Not Be What You Think



Words can only say so much – it is the way in which your words are spoken that matter, especially over the phone.

The tone of someone’s voice tells us a lot about them. For example, we can tell if they are having a good day or a bad day and if they are annoyed or happy to be a part of the conversation. More or less, we all do this type of assessment on a daily Words can only say so much – it is the way in which your words are said that really matter, especially over the phone.

Albert Mehrabain’s original experiments dealing with communication of feelings and attitudes found that people use three resources to determine likeability and trust: Body Language, Words, and Tone.

Now, the exact percentages vary depending on the research, but the trend is the same:
Body language dominates communication of attitudes in a face-to-face environment. Tone plays a large role also, and surprisingly, words mean very little when assessing someone’s likeability and trust.

The resources change in a telephone communication – you do not have the luxury of visual input, so tone skyrockets to become the key factor in our decision to like and trust the person on the other end of the line. Words gain some importance, but not enough to become the deciding factor. The tone of someone’s voice is what we use to decide if we like them, if we trust them, and ultimately if we want to do business with them.
Even the simple greeting used when answering the phone, which are the first words that your caller will hear, can have vastly different implications all dependent on the tone of your voice.

“Hello, thank you for calling Company XYZ. My name is Sarah. How may I help you today?”
Imagine hearing someone answering the phone this way with a cheery tone, smiling as they speak. You want to talk to this person. Now imagine hearing the same greeting from someone who sounds blasé, like they just woke up. You’d probably think that despite their words, they actually couldn’t really care less about helping you. It’s not what they said, it is how they said it!
The difference? Their tone.
You have to use the right words, but the way those words are spoken truly makes all the difference. Tone is the determining factor when your potential customers judge your company for likeability and trust during that first phone call and researchers have noticed.

November 23, 2017 by Rebecca Brown (Call

The 8 Worst Ways to Handle Angry Customers

The 8 Worst Ways to Handle Angry Customers


Interacting with customers, you know that not every interaction is going to go smoothly. It comes with the territory – having thick skin is essential. Sometimes it’s easy to maintain your composure while dealing with a customer complaint, other times it’s more difficult. Whether the customer is entitled to their anger is not worth debating, the only thing you can do is try not to escalate the situation any further. We’ve all been there, we put our ego before the situation, and things get out of control. A lot of people talk about HOW to handle customer rage correctly, but are we doing things to enable this behavior?
Be aware of these eight horrible habits that can sometimes manifest without realizing it; we are humans after all:

1. Getting Defensive
One of the worst ways to calm a frustrated customer down is by trying to explain why something went wrong. They don’t want to know WHY it went wrong; they just want it fixed. Your priority should be to address that an issue has occurred and let them know you will fix it. Don’t waste time on explanations and digging yourself a deeper hole.
2. Taking it Too Personally
It’s hard not to react when someone is shouting at you, but you need to be aware that the customer is not mad at YOU, they are mad at the overall experience. By understanding that something, most likely out of your control, has caused this person to become enraged the better off you’ll be. Instead, put yourself in their position and tell them how you would be equally upset if this happened to you.
3. Raising Your Voice
An absolute no-no. The worst thing you can do if a person is screaming at you, or giving you attitude, is replying with the same forceful tone. If you address someone who is upset in an even-tempered way, they will eventually come down to your level. They’ll soon realize how irrational they are behaving, in comparison to your disposition. Otherwise, you’ll end up escalating the situation even further.
4. Ignoring Their Concerns
Maybe they’re worried about the wrong thing, and maybe you know that, so you step over their nattering to reach a solution. It might sound like the quickest way to resolve the problem, but they might feel shut out from the conversation, which could stress them out even more. You need to address what they are contacting you about first, and explain the necessary line of action to ensure it’s fixed. Walk them through your thought process as you aim to resolve the problem, this way they aren’t left in the dark.
5. Showing Lack of Empathy
Empathy is the number one reason why customers report low satisfaction scores. You must always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If they are extremely irrational, and you can’t find common ground, try at the very least to remain tolerant. If empathy and accuracy still don’t make them feel better, know when to escalate a conversation to your manager. The customer wants to feel validated and important, and maybe you just aren’t the one to do this.
6. Being Slow to Respond
Besides empathy, the speed of response is the second most crucial customer service target, and depending on the channel of resolution, speed can rise above empathy. If hold times are too long, offering a call-back can reduce customer frustration well before they reach an agent. In other channels, such as social media, the response is critical to ensuring a customer does not lose their cool. If a customer sends an angry tweet, e-mail, or chat, the best thing to do is reply immediately to let them know you are available to them. It’s not about knowing all the answers right away, but showing concern as quickly as possible.
7. Acting Aloof
This is in the same vein as being slow to respond; showing lack of urgency for someone’s issue could set them off even more. It may be a simple request, but to the customer, it’s extremely important for them to have it resolved. Their time is important to them, and nothing is worse than speaking to an entitled agent talk about how worse things could have happened. Give each customer the attention they crave; it’s important to know that some need more than others.
8. Not Asking for Feedback
After resolving an issue, especially one where the customer seemed upset, and on edge, it’s extremely important to see how they are feeling after the experience. This is a great way to smooth out any hiccups that occurred over the call and show them you care about how they feel. This could be the difference between a lost customer, and a brand advocate.


Top Ten Quotes for Sales People

Top Ten Quotes for Sales People

My Personal Top Ten Quotes for Sales People

Written by Scott Larrabee on 06/04/2017


Every sales person needs some motivation to stay hungry from time to time, and what better way to get inspired than reading through an awesome list of some of the most inspirational quotes ever spoken. From many different walks of life, the greatest of all time have given us wisdom and inspiration to help guide us in our own lives and sales careers.

This is my personal top ten most inspirational quotes I put together for sales people to get their mindset right, and to find some motivation to give their best every day. I hope reading through these quotes will inspire great thoughts and motivate you to do great things with your life, and your sales career.

Here are my personal top ten most inspirational quotes for salespeople, in no particular order…

One of the very first motivational speakers and sales trainers I listened to and learned from was the great Zig Ziglar. One day I decided to buy some sales training CD’s to listen to while I commuted to work. I had a solid one hour drive to and from work each day, 5-6 days a week.

So, I started my days with a cup of coffee and hour of Zig preaching to me through the speakers in my car. He was a great salesman, and he was a great man.

Ziglar has some of my all-time favorite quotes, but this one is perfect to kick us off…


“Failure is an event, not a person.”

– Zig Ziglar


How about this reminder from Jim Rohn to be more than we currently are…

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.”

– Jim Rohn


It’s absolutely true in sales, and in life that the person who is willing to persist towards their goal even after multiple failures, is the person who becomes successful. No-one knows this better than someone who’s found success in the car business. 


“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill


This can be something that really takes your career to the next level when you get it. Make sure you put your focus where you want it, so you accomplish the things you want. Also, make sure you are focusing on the big things you want and going for them, don’t get caught up in all the tiny details!


“Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”

– Tony Robbins


In the car business, you want to create your own brand, get attention and get out of obscurity. With everyone selling a good product, you need to find a way to make yourself, or your dealership stand out above all the noise. Don’t follow the path of least resistance, go for big things even when others tell you it’s not possible!


“Those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it.”

– Pastor Rick Warren


Les Brown is one of the best motivational speakers of the last 30 years, and he has many quotes that inspire you, and motive you to want to take action. This one here for me gets right to the point, and sometimes all you need is a reminder!


“Life has no limitations except the ones you make.”

– Les Brown


I mean, c’mon it wouldn’t be a great list without a quote from master motivator himself Rocky Balboa. I love this one, many people have used it it many motivational videos etc. This is all the motivation you need for a sales meeting, all in 28 words!


“It ain’t how hard you hit… It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.”

– Rocky Balboa


Not only was Lincoln brilliantly book smart, but he also had an unmatched level of simple common sense. This seems like good advice and common sense to me, and it serves as a reminder that sometimes in life and car sales, you just have to hold on for a new season.


“When you reach the end of your rope, tie and knot and hang on.”

– Abraham Lincoln


Michael Jordan expected great things from himself his entire life, and he became the greatest basketball player of all time in his career. He is a successful businessman, motivator, and no-one is harder on themselves than Michael Jordan. He has many great quotes, but this one reminds me that I have to be my biggest fan, and if I don’t believe in myself, I will never reach my full potential in life or sales.


“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”

– Michael Jordan


If you’re in the car business you’ve heard of Grant Cardone, either that or you’ve been living under a rock. Cardone is a man who walks his talk, and this one reminds me to do the same every single day out on the lot!


“Let the rest do whatever while you do whatever it takes!”

– Grant Cardone


There you go, my top ten most inspirational quotes for car sales people. I refer back to this list whenever I am looking for some motivation, or a jump start to my day. We all need to plug into a source of motivation each and every day in order to succeed at high levels in such a highly competitive world like the Car Business.


About Scott Larrabee 
Sales at Darling’s Auto Group

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership

The Truth About “Servant Leadership”

May 8, 2017 by Dave Anderson

Servant leadership isn’t a new topic by any stretch, but was popularized in modern culture with the classic book on the subject by Robert Greenleaf four decades ago. After speaking in sixteen countries and writing thirteen books over the past two decades, I find there are still several misconceptions concerning what servant leadership is, and what it is not. Since it is fair to assume those reading this column are interested in improving their leadership ability—and elevating the positive impact they have on those they lead—I’ll endeavor to crystalize the essence of what servant leadership is really about, while dispelling a couple of myths that detract from its power and potential.

Myth #1: Servant leadership is about doing people’s work for them. 
I can recall teaching a private How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK seminar—based on my book of the same name—to a hotel group when an attendee said, “I like the idea of servant leadership, but I get tired of my people watching me do their work for them.” I replied that this wasn’t servant leadership at all; it was foolish martyrdom. I explained that servant leadership is not about doing people’s work for them, but instead, it is equipping people to do their own work better. Of course, there are times when the team is in a pinch and you may need to jump in to help someone complete a task; but, ultimately, servant leadership is about creating the conditions for your people to become less dependent on you, not more so.




Myth #2: Servant leadership is weak, or is for the weak. This misconception is brought about, in part, by the wrong understanding of what servant leadership is as discussed in the prior point. It is exacerbated by the very nature of the word “servant,” which when wrongly understood in the context of leadership can make you sound like a doormat or wimp. The fact is that it requires strength and humility to serve effectively—to set aside your own preferences or comfort in order to invest in the development of others.

To make the concept of servant leadership very real, I’ll give you five specific steps that you can take in any leadership position in order to serve your team members. You will see that following these these five steps addresses both myths well: you will equip others to do better work, and there is nothing warm or fuzzy about executing the tasks consistently and with excellence.

  1. You serve people by setting clear expectations for them.

In fact, it is a gross disservice to keep people guessing about what the following are:

  • Non-negotiable behavioral standards (core values).
  • Non-negotiable outcomes they are expected to create.
  • Non-negotiable daily activities they are to engage in, which are most predictive of creating the desired outcomes.
  • A bold vision that inspires the team member and allows them to clearly see their expected contribution.
  • A clear and compelling mission that unites the team behind a common purpose, and marginalizes competing agendas.

There is certainly nothing “soft” or “weak” about getting clear with what you expect from people, and creating benchmarks for accountability. In fact, the real leadership weaklings are those who are so reluctant to stand for anything or confront non-performance, that they create cultures with masses of gray areas where people must guess: what’s most important, where they are required to be, and by when—and then are eventually terminated because they guessed wrong.

  1. You serve people by giving fast, candid feedback on performance.

Once clarity is established, this point is far easier because you have created reference points for which you can give feedback on. It is a disservice to allow people to perform either well or poorly without either reinforcing or correcting their behavior. Servant leaders are fair in that if someone is great, they tell him or her; and, if they are failing, they let them know that as well.

  1. You serve people by holding them accountable for results.

What is “weak” is allowing someone to fail on your watch because you don’t have either the skills or guts to make both yourself and them uncomfortable with a tough-love conversation that involves consequences. If you care about people, you will confront them, you will stretch them, and you will punish them with consequences when they deserve it. Servant leaders expect a lot from people because they believe in them; they hold people accountable because they care, and they stretch them so the team member never has to look back and regret giving less than his or her best. If someone is either violating a core value or producing unacceptable performance, you will need to change the consequence for that behavior in order to change the behavior. It is a dereliction of duty to do otherwise and let the people you are responsible for self-destruct because you don’t do your job.

  1. You serve people by investing time and money: training, coaching, and mentoring them.

If you execute this task well, the unacceptable performances mentioned in the prior point will be less common. A servant leader endeavors to leave people better than they find them; to daily take the human capital they are entrusted with and make it more valuable through training, coaching, and mentoring.

  1. You serve people by empowering them with broadened latitude and discretion.

People grow when they are stretched, not when they are simply maintained. The servant leader’s job is to make his or her people less dependent on them. This is done by empowering the individual to make more independent decisions, giving them additional responsibilities that cause him or her to leave their comfort zones and thereby enable them to expand the value they add to the organization. However, it’s important that the training, coaching, and mentoring functions are working well before you empower people. To paraphrase the late, great, Jim Rohn, “If you motivate and empower idiots, all you’ll have are motivated and empowered idiots.”

While there are both additional myths and steps to take concerning servant leadership, this should give you a template to evaluate your own mindset and skill set as a servant leader. In fact, if your direct reports scored you A through F on the impact you have on them concerning the five steps provided, how would you do? Go ahead and ask them.

Author: Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead which provides in-person and virtual training to many of the world’s best dealerships. Dave speaks to dealer groups over 125 times each year and has given seminars in 15 countries. He’s written the leadership column for Dealer Magazine for the past fifteen years. Dave’s 13th book, “It’s Not Rocket Science: 4 Simple Strategies for Mastering the Art of Execution” is now available worldwide.

Disney Happiness

Disney Happiness


“There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the details.”

Walt Disney


At Disney, every contact with a customer offers a chance to shine. Disney calls these contacts “Moments of Truth” … the opportunities to create everlasting positive impressions! And because the company demands excellence as an organizational absolute, even its fiercest competitors acknowledge that Disney is simply the best customer-centric company on the planet! 

Over a series of articles posted once a week, we’re going to be focusing on some of the details that creates Disney Magic. 

Disney Detail #1: Happiness

Disney’s main goal is to make people happy and preserve the impression that the Disney is a place where dreams come true. 

The Disney mantra:

We create happiness by providing the finest in family entertainment.”

It’s common knowledge that emotions are often more powerful than logic when it comes to buying decisions. That’s why it’s always important to tap into what makes your customers or clients feel good about buying from you and focus on that in your delivery and fulfillment systems.

Below are the service guidelines that Disney used in the 1960’s. Even though these Guidelines don’t exist in this form anymore, the spirit of the Guidelines are very much in practice by Disney employees to this day.

Disney’s Seven Service Guidelines:

Disney Detail #1

The 7 C’s: How to Find and Hire Great Employees

The 7 C’s: How to Find and Hire Great Employees

Forbes Magazine – Written by Allan Hall.

A founder can’t grow a winning enterprise singlehandedly. Some may try, but it is nearly impossible to do so. Every famous entrepreneur has built a flourishing company with great employees by his or her side.

An entrepreneur can invent and even commercialize an idea as an enterprise of one. In time, however, the tasks of running a business become too great for the entrepreneur to manage alone.  At this point, a savvy leader must find and hire the best workers to help achieve the entrepreneurial dream.

In today’s economy, hiring the best people is more critical than ever. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to lose time, money and results from a bad hiring choice (a recent Forbes article by David K. Williams pegs the cost of a single bad hire at anywhere from $25-50,000). The cost of finding, interviewing, engaging and training new employees is high. Employees also require desks, computers, phones and related equipment, let alone the largest costs of being an employer—salaries, benefits and taxes.

Leaders view new employees as an investment and anticipate an excellent financial return over time.

Over the course of my career, I’ve hired hundreds of people. Some were exceptional employees who were major contributors to our success. Others didn’t work out. In most cases, when an employee left or was terminated, I was the problem. Those dismissed were good people. I just did not know how to properly hire new employees.

Historically, and sadly, the only criteria I had used were to find the candidate with the best skills, experiences and ability to match a job description.

I have since identified seven categories—I call them the “7 C’s”–that you should consider to find the best new employees, as follows:

  1. Competent: This is still the first factor to consider. Does the potential employee have the necessary skills, experiences and education to successfully complete the tasks you need performed?
  2. Capable: Will this person complete not only the easy tasks but will he or she also find ways to deliver on the functions that require more effort and creativity? For me, being capable means the employee has potential for growth and the ability and willingness to take on more responsibility.
  3. Compatible: Can this person get along with colleagues, and more importantly, can he or she get along with existing and potential clients and partners? A critical component to also remember is the person’s willingness and ability to be harmonious with you, his or her boss. If the new employee can’t, there will be problems.
  4. Commitment: Is the candidate serious about working for the long term? Or is he or she just passing through, always looking for something better? A history of past jobs and time spent at each provides clear insight on the matter.
  5. Character: Does the person have values that align with yours? Are they honest; do they tell the truth and keep promises? Are they above reproach? Are they selfless and a team player?
  6. Culture: Every business has a culture or a way that people behave and interact with each other. Culture is based on certain values, expectations, policies and procedures that influence the behavior of a leader and employees. Workers who don’t reflect a company’s culture tend to be disruptive and difficult.
  7. Compensation: As the employer, be sure the person hired agrees to a market-based compensation package and is satisfied with what is offered. If not, an employee may feel unappreciated and thereby under perform. Be careful about granting stock in the company; if not handled well, it will create future challenges.

Job applicants will give you their answers to the seven categories. They may be modestly presented or exaggerated. You are searching for the truth. To obtain a clearer picture of potential workers, I recommend you talk to former employment associates. The references a job candidate provides will nearly always provide a biased report. Instead, ask the candidate for the names of former bosses, peers and subordinates.

I’m here to tell you that good references will share the truth and not mince words. With these names in hand, call former co-workers and ask them if the job applicant fits my seven characteristics. This will give you a full and accurate view, good and bad, that will leave you much better equipped to select the best candidate.

Ten Ways to Communicate More Effectively

Ten Ways to Communicate More Effectively

We all know what happened to the Titanic. Clearer communications could have prevented the tragedy and the loss of more than 1,500 lives. Communications play just as important a role in your careers. When asked to name the top three skills they believed their subordinates need, 70 percent of the readers of CIO magazine listed communications as one of them.

Here are some tips on how you can communicate more effectively with people at work, be they customers, co-workers, subordinates, or superiors.

#1: Beware of interrupting

Titanic wireless operator Jack Phillips interrupted a wireless message from a nearby ship, telling them to shut up. In doing so, he prevented that ship from sending Titanic an iceberg warning.

Be careful about interrupting others, particularly your customers. They’ll be especially upset if, while they’re explaining a problem, you interrupt them and start offering a solution. If you feel you have to interrupt, at least cut to the chase and tell the other person what you think his or her main idea was. That way, the other person at least can confirm or correct you, and in either case saves time.

#2: Listen actively

Did you ever get the feeling, when talking to someone, that you were really talking to a wall? The person may have heard you but gave no indication of it at all. Avoid doing the same thing. When communicating with others, it’s just as important that people be aware that you’re listening as it is that you’re actually listening. For that reason, be involved with and react to what the other person is saying, either via a nod, or an “I see,” or a paraphrase of the other person’s statements. You’ll strengthen your own understanding and make a better impression.

#3: Avoid negative questions

Suppose you say to a customer, “You don’t have Word installed?” and he answers “Yes.” What does he mean? Yes, you’re right, Word is not installed? Or yes, he DOES have Word installed?

Asking a negative question creates confusion. It’s clearer if you phrase the question positively (e.g., “Do you have Word installed?”) or ask an open-ended question (“What applications do you have installed?”). If you must use the negative, try a question such as “Am I correct that you don’t have Word installed?”

#4: Be sensitive to differences in technical knowledge

Chances are, your customers have less technical knowledge than you do. Be careful, therefore, when explaining things to them. If you use acronyms, be sure you identify what the acronym means. The same acronym can mean different things, even in an IT context (for example, ASP can refer to “application service provider” or “active server page”). Be careful that you don’t make two opposite mistakes: either talking over their head or talking down to them. Keep your eyes on customers when you talk to them and be alert to cues indicating that they don’t understand. Ask them whether they understand what you’re saying, if necessary.

#5: Use analogies to explain technical concepts

A good way to explain a technical idea is to use an analogy. Though they have limitations, analogies are helpful in explaining an unfamiliar idea in terms of a familiar one. One of the best analogies I ever heard compared a firewall to a bank teller. When you enter a bank, you don’t just go into the vault and get your money. Instead, you go to a window, where the teller verifies your identity and determines that you have enough money. The teller goes to the vault, brings it back to the window, gives it to you, and then you leave.

#6: Use positive instead of negative statements

Your customers are more interested in your capabilities than in your limitations. In other words, they’re interested in what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. The way you say things to them influences how they perceive you and your department. You, as an IT department or individual, can be seen as a roadblock or you can be seen as a partner. So, for example, instead of saying, “I can’t help you unless you log off,” consider saying, “Please log off so that I can help you.” Your statements often will be easier to understand as well.

Here’s another reason to avoid negative statements. Have you ever experienced gaps of silence in your telephone calls, where the conversation breaks up? Usually it happens when using a cell or a VoIP telephone. If the gap occurs as you’re saying “not,” your recipient could get the opposite message from what you intended.

#7: Be careful of misinterpreted words and phrases

Sometimes we say something with innocent intent, but the other person misinterprets it. We mean to say one thing, but our pronunciation or inflection causes us to convey something else. For example, in Chinese, the sound “ma” said in a high level tone means “mother in law.” However, said in a falling and rising tone, it means “horse.”

Be especially careful of the word “you.” Overusing this word can make the person you’re talking to feel defensive or threatened. Instead of saying, “You need to speak louder,” try saying, “I’m having trouble hearing.” Another issue involves the dual meaning of “you.” Unlike other languages, English uses the same word to refer to an actual person (for example, the person you’re talking to) as well as to a hypothetical person. Suppose you said to someone, “You never know what’s going to happen next,” and meant to equate “you” with “people in general.” The other person might think you’re referring to him or her specifically and take offense. A better alternative might be, “It’s really unpredictable here.”

If someone is upset, one of the worst things to say is “calm down.” It might work one-half of one percent of the time, but generally all it does is make things worse.

In general, think before you speak. I’m not saying you always have to be polite or diplomatic. Sometimes you do need to (figuratively, of course) beat people up. However, do consider the alternatives before speaking. As the proverb goes, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

#8: Remember that technical problems involve emotional reactions

When customers have a technical problem (for example, they’re having trouble printing), keep in mind that they’ll almost always have an emotional reaction as well. Those emotions can range from simple annoyance to outright panic, depending on the importance of the document and the time element involved. I’m not saying you have to be Dr. Phil, but it’s important to acknowledge and recognize these emotional reactions. If all you do is solve the technical problem and walk away, chances are the customer will still be upset.

In these cases, simply saying something like, “Pain in the neck, isn’t it?” or “I hate when that happens to me” can help the customer feel better about the situation and possibly feel more positive about you.

#9: Anticipate customer objections and questions

In his book The Art of War, the ancient Chinese author and strategist Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Apply this principle when communicating with customers. In particular, try to anticipate the objections your customers will have to your message and address those objections.

For example, suppose you’re sending out a directive regarding the downloading and application of Windows updates. Suppose further that you have customers who know enough to be dangerous. Such a customer might think, “Well, I’m current in my virus definitions, so this update is unnecessary for me.” Your communications with such a customer will be more effective if you anticipate and address that issue. Consider, therefore, a sentence such as, “This Windows update is necessary even if your virus definitions are current.”

#10: Keep the customer informed

The area where I live, southeastern Pennsylvania, has a large agricultural presence, in particular involving the production of mushrooms. While they are growing, mushrooms are kept in a dark building and are covered with fertilizer.

Your customers will become upset if you treat them the same way. Keep them informed of developments involving them, particularly with regard to technical problems and outages. In particular, keep them apprised even if nothing is going on. For example, let them know you’ve contacted the vendor but still haven’t heard anything back. No news is still news.

If a customer leaves you a request via voicemail or e-mail, let the customer know you received it, even if you are still in the process of handling it. Doing so gives the customer one less matter to worry about.

When a problem is resolved, let the customer know that, too. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than finding out that they could have been working sooner if they had only known.

By Calvin Sun – TechRepublic