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Under-Promise and Over-Deliver for Clients? BAD Idea (Episode 30) Trust Matters,The Podcast

For our 30th episode, a tech expert asks if it is a good idea to OVER-DELIVER for a client and exceed their expectations.

This week’s episode touches on our own reputation, business development, and managing client relationships.

To learn more about the topic of managing expectations, read this blog post:

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.
Email us at: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

We’ll be posting new episodes every other week.

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Recovering Lost Client Trust (Episode 29) Trust Matters, The Podcast

A manager at a global consultancy firm asks, “How do I mend lost trust with a client whom we used to have an excellent relationship with? This relationship went sour due to a disagreement with one particular executive a few years back, and he still maintains a leadership role.”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

We’ll be posting new episodes every other week.
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Are trust-building conversations different for women? In at least one case, absolutely.

We had a really interesting discussion in a team meeting the other day about a trust-building technique that we’ve been espousing for years (one that Charlie Green first wrote about in Trust-Based Selling in 2005 and has been a favorite of mine ever since he taught it to me). We talked about how that technique, when used by women, might unintentionally compromise their trust-building efforts in a big way. This week’s tip digs a little deeper into the issue and proposes a solution that actually applies to women as well as men.

The technique in question is a caveat, which is a short, emotionally honest statement that precedes a tough message—like, “This is awkward …” or, “At the risk of embarrassing myself … ”.

The questions that arose were (1) Can caveats hurt a woman’s credibility and (2) Should women therefore avoid them entirely?

The answers I’ve since come to, thanks to colleague and coach Stewart Hirsch’s thoughtful input based on the work he’s done on implicit bias, is (1) quite possibly, yes, and (2) no.

Caroline Turner, former General Counsel of Coors and author of Difference Works (with whom Stewart has collaborated), helps us understand the why behind both answers.

In Caroline’s article, “Masculine-Feminine Difference: How We Talk,” she describes a masculine-feminine continuum and distinguishes what she calls masculine and feminine language. She reminds us that both men and women operate on both sides of that continuum, and each has its own language. In short, masculine language is marked by declarative statements. Feminine language uses more questions, and, as noted in Caroline’s article, often relies on what Dr. Pat Heim calls disclaimers, hedges and tag questions. Feminine language used in a masculine environment—and vice versa—are where trust issues can arise.

With caveats, which can sound a lot like disclaimers, a more feminine style of speaking could in fact hurt credibility in a more masculine-dominated setting. (A disclaimer has the effect of discounting the message, though that’s not the intent of a caveat.) Examples of problematic caveats in this case include:

  • “I could be wrong …”
  • “I may be missing something …”
  • “I’m not sure how to tell you this …”
  • “At the risk of embarrassing myself …”

Similarly, more masculine-style caveats, like, “You’re not going to like this …” could hurt intimacy in a more feminine-dominated setting. (Side note: I had great difficulty coming up with a lot of masculine-style examples as I am definitely more feminine-style oriented. Suggestions are always welcome.)

The solution is the same for both women and men: know your audience and tailor accordingly. Interestingly, the caveats above could be very effective when applied in the other setting. And when you’re not sure, you could go more neutral:

  • “Heads up …”
  • “I’m not sure how you’re going to react …”
  • “There’s no easy way to say this …”

The solution is definitely not to avoid caveats altogether. That’s because they serve as a warning to the recipient that bad news is on the way, and that warning is an intimacy-builder in and of itself. And intimacy—especially in the face of bad news—is a critical aspect of trust-building for us all.

Should I Start Consulting Or Stay In-House? (Episode 28) Trust Matters, The Podcast

An experienced B2B, technology Product Leader asks, “Should I break out and become a SME Consultant, starting my own practice or should I continue working at bigger companies? What do I need to know about starting my own consulting business?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

We’ll be posting new episodes every other week.
Subscribe to get the latest 
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The Dark Art of Ghosting in Business

I first became aware of “ghosting” as a concept over a decade ago, when a young friend informed me she had been “Caspered” by a boyfriend. I had to ask her to explain.

In case you’re as clueless today as I was at the time, here’s the Urban Dictionary’s definition. Key line:

  • The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested

Interestingly, even as woke a place as the Urban Dictionary includes a near-moral judgment about the phenomenon: it is “closely related to the subject’s maturity…[and] proves the subject is thinking more of themselves than the ghostee.” A rather obvious nod to the concept of Self-Orientation, the denominator in the Trust Equation.

Never mind the ethical angle; I don’t want to come off as just some moralizer (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I want to state the case for what a stupid, short-term, self-harming phenomenon it is.

Business Ghosts

First of all, ghosting has evolved beyond the dating world. Some business examples might include:

  • Firms ghosting interview candidates somewhere past the beginning of the recruiting process
  • (Interview candidates ghosting the recruiting firm in the same situation)
  • Contractors ghosting vendors who’ve responded to an RFP process (and vice versa)

Basically, any business situation in which an (even mildly) uncomfortable situation is dealt with by simply opting out of normal civil conversation.

Some more perspective:

  • A 2019 Robert Half study shows that 28% of respondents had backed out of a job after accepting an offer.
  • A 2019 Staffing Industry Analysts survey showed that over 40% of respondents say ghosting a potential employer is acceptable. 35% say it’s “very unreasonable” for a company to ghost a potential employee, but only 21% think it’s “very unreasonable” for the potential employee to ghost the potential employer.
  • A friend with a small IT consulting firm who depends on subcontractors told me of recently being ghosted by a sub after having gotten verbal confirmation of commitment to work on a time-critical job.

There is a line of argument that says millennials and Gen Z are to blame. Weaned on social media and anchored to their cellphone screens, the argument goes, we are raising a generation of socially incompetents. (For an excellent take on the issues facing this age cohort, I recommend Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s most recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure).

However, I’m not going to go there regarding ghosting, because I don’t want to let the rest of us off the hook. As the Urban Dictionary notes, it’s an issue of maturity: and just because it’s an age thing doesn’t mean it’s a generational thing. It’s something that hopefully we grow out of as we get older.

So, let’s look at it from the point of view of the ghoster, and the ghostee.

When It’s OK to Ghost

This one’s easy.

Basically, never.

Sure, you can come up with some convoluted morally-ambiguous scenarios in which non-involvement or silence is somehow the lesser of two evils. But let’s get real: it’s simply not OK to ghost people in the midst of normal commercial-human behavior.

Beyond the dictates of normal social behavior, there are plenty of good reasons. Your reputation will suffer, as will that of your firm. You will create unnecessary resentments. You will annoy at best and hurt at worst other people. You burn bridges. You set a bad example. You create bad habits.

Really, that should be enough. Just Don’t Do That.

What to Do When You’re Ghosted

Basically, you’ve got four choices; and only one of them is acceptable.

  • Keep hounding them. Classic can-kicking down the road. Postponement is not solution.
  • Reach out positively to give them another chance. Definitely worth one try. Not worth two, because it’s likely to just drive the offender deeper into their behavior. Plus, life is short.
  • Publicly shame them. Tempting, but to all the wrong parts of your psyche. Resentment is like taking poising and waiting for the other person to die. Don’t indulge in it.
  • Resolve never to do business with them again, and move on. They’ve shown you their true colors; time to believe them, and move on.

So, what can you do if you’re ghosted? Honestly – nothing. Find some learning in it, and move on.

How to Prevent Being Ghosted In the Future

This may be the only situation worth talking about.

You can do a few things reduce the chances of it happening again.

  • For one, maximize emotional bandwidth at the outset. If you can’t meet personally, then do video calls rather than audio. If you can’t do video calls, then do audio calls rather than email. If you can’t do phone calls, then write lengthy emails rather than short ones. The more personal connection you establish up front, the less people are likely to ghost you.
  • For another, take a small risk on them at the outset. The logic here is that people tend to reciprocate. If you trust them, they’re more likely to be trustworthy with you. That might mean a small upfront payment; or a sharing of some intellectual property; or a sharing of information about your own business. Your choice: the point is to take a risk, so they’ll take a risk on you.
  • Share something about yourself that is personal early on. Again, people tend to reciprocate, and they’re likely to respond similarly. People are more likely to come to you with conflicts if you’ve had some level of interpersonal sharing than if they think they “really don’t know you anyway, so what the heck.”

You’ll notice these are all small ways of increasing trust up front. Establishing trust up front is the best inoculation against the violation of trust later by someone who’s vulnerable to the immature and destructive act of ghosting.

And, not that it’s your job, but doing so will help add to the emotional maturity of the contractor, and make things a little better in the world at large. Not a bad deal: reduce your risk, and help fix a tiny part of the world at the same time.  Be an ambassador of trust.

 

 

 

Trust Matters, The Podcast: Can I Trust Digital Marketing for Lead Generation? (Episode 26)

A Co-Founder of a small Management Consulting Firm asks, “We need to grow our sales funnel. Can we trust Digital Marketing and SEO for lead generation?”

For more on this subject read our blog post:

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

We’ll be posting new episodes every other Tuesday.
Subscribe to get the latest 
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Cutting Edge (Bad) Digital Marketing

Here are two (real) digital communications I recently received. What jumps out at you about the differences between the two?

The first:

Charles,

Not sure if you got a chance to read my last 2 emails but I still wanted to see if what we do is something that you could benefit from.

Also as you can probably tell, our business thrives off of referrals from people who understand and have experienced the value in our services. So if you know anyone who would be a good fit, we’d love to meet them!

Feel free to give me a call at xxx.xxx.xxxx or shoot me reply [sic].

Talk to you soon!

– [name]

 

The second:

Hi Charles H., thanks for connecting!

As retirement approaches, we’re faced with a lot of questions: How much longer will I need to work? Do I have enough saved for the retirement I want? How much should I set aside for my kids? It takes a team to find the answers that are right for you, and with over 36 years of experience in wealth management – and becoming a part of my clients’ families – I love being a member of that team.

My approach to wealth management is unique; it’s what earned me a spot on Barron’s ranking of America’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors. A holistic look at your financial future can save you money and worry down the line. Your wealth encompasses a lifetime of hard work and efforts. Don’t you think in an ever more complex world it would be smart for you to get a second review of your life’s plan? Interested in learning more? Grab some time on my calendar:[calendly.com invitation]

All the best, [name, Senior Vice President Wealth Management – Portfolio Manager at one of the top 5 wealth management firms in the world]

——————

So – what’s the difference between the two?

In my opinion: basically nothing.

Yes, I know. The first one is garden variety email spam, enabled by zero-marginal-cost lists, that predictably hit my email ‘junk’ folder, with a bit of added annoyance (“not sure if you had a chance to read my previous two spam emails…”).

The second one came in response to my accepting a LinkedIn connection request.

Now, maybe you think there’s a huge difference between an unrequested spam email on the one hand, and the “opt-in” nature of a response to my acceptance of a LinkedIn request on the other. Maybe you think that the LinkedIn request was carefully tailored to fit a targeted segment which included me, and that therefore I’m far more likely to be interested in the pitch.

I’m not buying it. It’s all spam. Here’s why.

Targeting vs. Personalization

First of all, if you’re selling a B2C product with mass appeal that retails for under $50, and your brand name or reputation means nothing to you, then you can ignore the rest of this rant. I’m not going to argue with you, and maybe you’re right for your business.

But – if you’re a business dealing in products or services which are complex, expensive, have significant effects on the buyer, and which involve trust, reputation and branding – and you care about those things – then lean in.

The buying process for such categories is inescapably personal (with the decision to entrust one’s life savings among the most personal). The selling process ought, it seems to me, to respect and reflect the nature of that buying process.

And yet – no doubt influenced by the savvy digital marketers employed by that global wealth management firm – this Senior VP sees fit to send me the equivalent of a highway billboard. (Let’s not even dwell on the scraped name “Charles H.”; how many people go by first-name-middle-initial?)

Way back in the 90s, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote about the promised future of marketing as enabling one-to-one relationships. Not “one-to-one targeting,” but “one-to-one relationships.”

The difference has been lost in the Googlified and ad-tech-drenched marketing world of 2019.

Go back and look over the banker’s message to me. It’s all about him and his bank – not a word about me. This focus on himself leads to more of a disconnect when he tells me he’s “becoming a part of my clients’ families.” (What’s next? Their ‘trusted advisor?’)

Customer Focus vs. Vulture Focus

Here’s the corner that digital marketers have painted themselves into. The more they are able to finely tune their targeted audience, the more we expect them to show us how that fine-tuning is relevant to us. And yet, they do the opposite: choosing to make the message all that more impersonal.

This banker found me on LinkedIn – a content-rich environment. How hard would it have been for him to say something – anything – about me, and how his service might be relevant to me?

  • Hi Charles, I see you’re an author, that’s really impressive.
  • Hi Charles, I see you run a small business; I’m guessing that maybe…
  • Hi Charles, I see you write a blog; I looked over a few of your posts, and…

How long would that take? 5-10 minutes? Run the numbers on the lifetime value of a client for a wealth manager, and you’re left asking – why did he settle for the equivalent of bluetooth-pinging me in the grocery aisle with a cents-off special on canned soup?

(I actually like to think that my erstwhile banker friend agrees with me for the most part – many private wealth managers have a good instinct for the personal – but that he lost an internal battle to the overwhelming force of the digital marketing ‘experts’).

Bad Digital Marketing

How has it come to this? How have the capabilities of digital been used by marketers solely to reduce cost-per-exposure, while ignoring the potential for enhanced effectiveness of human to human contact? Ironically, the less human contact there is, the more valuable the remaining contact becomes. Yet all this capability has been deployed in service to fine-tuning our targeting efforts – while doing nothing to enhance the relationship itself.

Instead, digital has dragged marketing back decades to where they forget another, even older, lesson – this one from the 60s and 70s. Features and testimonials don’t sell nearly as well as focus on consumer needs – which are personal. Which starts with some recognition that you’re dealing with a unique consumer.

As my friend and sales guru Dave Brock says, today’s marketers “are happy with a 0.1% response from 1000, not recognizing a 10% response from 50 is far better.” 

Better, that is, in terms of relationships; reputation; branding; and trust. If you don’t care about those things – if you’re running a digital pop-up store for pet rocks, or selling fabricated plastic toys from Vietnam, perhaps you don’t care.

But if you’re running one of the world’s largest private wealth management firms – or a consulting firm, or a B2B tech firm, or a global accounting firm – you should.

It’s no accident that the trust levels of tech firms are declining; corporate trust ultimately rides or fails on whether the firm’s people manage to create personal trust-based relationships. And the ethos of volume-over-relationships, zero marginal cost vs. total value, is destructive of that trust.

I can think of many reasons for how we got here, but that’s another blogpost. In the meantime – you don’t have to run your business this way.

Take the extra 5-10 minutes to focus on your customer; take a small risk; drop your focus on efficiency, and focus on relationship effectiveness. Do something to recognize that your business ultimately depends on relationships, not algorithms.

Don’t give in to bad digital marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust Matters, The Podcast: Asking a Client for a Rate Increase (Episode 24)

A solo consultant asks , “How do I ask a long-standing client, whom I already bill a lot monthly, for a rate increase?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

We’ll be posting new episodes every other Tuesday.
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Trust Matters, The Podcast: Set Up for Failure By My Boss – Special Guest Andy Paul, Author & CEO, The Sale House (Episode 23)

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Trust Matters, The Podcast: When Clients Want to Look Under The Hood at Your Pricing (Episode 22)

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