Use Button If Additional Flushes Are Necessary

By Jeff Beals

Communication is perhaps the most important ingredient of success. When done properly, communication facilitates business transactions, makes learning possible and greases the operational wheels of any organization. Not only can teams not function without it, you could argue teams don’t even exist without it.

It’s so important, that companies spend big dollars trying to make their employees better at it. After all, those people and organizations that are not good at communication tend to suffer.

Though you can never master all there is to know about it, developing better communication skills should be a life-long pursuit for all professionals.

There’s no doubt about communication’s importance, but is it possible to “over communicate?”

Yes, it is. I found proof of this recently at two different airports.

While passing through Chicago’s Midway Airport recently, I heard an announcement that sounded something like this: “The Chicago Airport System reminds you to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.” The announcement then went on to remind all of us harried travelers that this is cold-and-flu season and that we should use tissues when blowing our noses.

Really? I learned this lesson long before I enrolled in kindergarten.

A couple days later, I was passing through the Detroit airport and noticed the following sign permanently affixed to the men’s room wall: “Please use button if additional flushes are necessary.”

Really? I discovered that on my own the first time I encountered an automatically flushing toilet in the late 1980’s.

Indeed, our society is “over-communicative,” and it appears to be getting worse and worse each year.

Perhaps we will one day hear an announcement like this: “The Chicago Airport System reminds all passengers that breathing is important. For best results, do it at least 30 times per minute and use your diaphragm to expand and contract your lungs. Thank you for flying Chicago’s Midway International Airport.”

Communication is essential. Too much communication is annoying.

While I don’t like it, I understand why large companies and organizations tend to be over-communicative. We live in a litigious society. Everybody is worried about being sued, so we end up with ridiculous warnings and disclaimers. But much of today’s over-communication is not done just for lawsuit prevention. It’s as if people think, “We have a public address system, so we better find an excuse to use it.”

Airport authorities, companies and large organizations aren’t the only sources of over-communication. People do it too. I’m sometimes guilty. We all know that person who tells the same story over-and-over. How about the joke teller who keeps repeating the punch line several times after everybody has already laughed?

It’s a fine line. In our work, we must communicate enough but not overdo it. We need to share what needs to be shared without driving people away. Communication is an art, which means that it requires constant attention and a focus on improvement.

Don’t let our culture’s proclivity for excessive institutional communication creep into your own, personal communication habits. This is easier said than done, because I don’t see companies and organizations stopping their over-communication anytime soon.

It’s probably only a matter of time before this helpful little sign is posted in the Detroit airport’s bathroom: “Please unzip pants before using toilet.”

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Sales Secrets from Baja California

To unearth the age-old secrets of sales and marketing, I journeyed 2,600 miles to Cabo San Lucas on the extreme southern tip of Baja California Sur.

Actually, it was just a vacation.

But during what was a carefree trip spent mostly on the beach and in margarita bars, I inadvertently received a Mexican marketing lesson and crystal-clear insight into what it really takes to be successful in selling services and promoting products.

The unexpected lesson came at me from two different angles – from above and below. One angle was luxurious, affluent and exclusive; the other was “street selling,” marketing in a very traditional and primitive form.

Let’s start with the luxurious angle. We had the good fortune of staying in our friends’ opulent condo, a lavishly appointed place with an interior design worthy of an architectural magazine. As the guest of a resident, I was offered the “opportunity” to sit in an information session organized by the management company. Of course, the session was actually intended to sell me my own piece of real estate paradise (or at least a one-week share of it).

Normal vacationers run like hell when offered such an “opportunity.” Not me. I love real estate and am fascinated with marketing, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn. The free breakfast buffet and piña coladas were just icing on the cake.

Wow, the real estate agent was so effective – she was charismatic, attractive, well informed, a great conversationalist with such strong interpersonal skills. The meeting was private, not some presentation in an auditorium. The pitch was soft-sell, much more focused on relationship-building than high-pressure closings. We talked for two hours. Most of the time was spent discussing the local area. We talked about politics, culture and a great deal of Mexican history. She asked questions – lots of them. A good salesperson gets to know her prospects inside and out. She knew what information she wanted from me, and she got it.

In a clear attempt to play to my ego, she said, “The advantage of a time share is that you pre-pay your vacation. That means a man of your stature is essentially forced to set aside time in your busy schedule to relax and be with your family. That will make your wife happy and give your kids memories for a lifetime.”

Now, she obviously acted as if I was a much bigger deal than I really am, but what a great angle! She found what I valued and focused on how her product could satisfy that value.

Then there’s the other side of sales and marketing in Cabo.

As is common in Mexican tourist towns, street hawkers are omnipresent. They sell everything from traditional souvenir items to whale-watching excursions to staged photos of you downing a shot of tequila on the beach while sporting an oversized sombrero.

There’s so much selling, you get kind of sick of it, which can lead to flippant brush-offs and irritated responses of “No gracias!”

While walking to lunch one day with my wife and our friend, a street vendor approached me and displayed a handful of silver bracelets.

“Hey man, you need one of these for your pretty lady,” he said.

“Her? She doesn’t even like me anymore,” I responded playfully.

“Maybe this bracelet would help,” he said.

“It’s hopeless; nothing will help. She doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I insisted.

A pause and a smile… “Get one for your next wife!”

His humor and creativity stood out among the sea of street vendors all saying the same thing. What’s more impressive, however, is that he was trying to find something I valued. Had I been telling the truth, it may have been a successful pitch!

How interesting – the methods of selling I experienced on my Mexican vacation were very different, yet the lessons were the same: it all comes down to value! Whether you are selling exclusive real estate or future garage-sale items from a pushcart, you are successful when you find the buyer’s value points.

The successful marketer and the savvy salesperson know that people buy what they value and only what they value. It is the salesperson’s job to find out just what that value is. Value is determined by the prospective client, never by the seller or marketer.

How do you find what your prospective clients value? It’s simple. Start by building rapport and then ask the right questions.

The street hawker with the bracelets built rapport through humor and creativity. Because it was such a brief encounter, he didn’t have the luxury of asking me a lot of questions, but give him credit for trying to find my value point as quickly as possible.

The condo salesperson gave a textbook performance. She built rapport with me and asked the right questions. She now knows what I value. She didn’t make the sale, but I suspect I will hear from her periodically. When the day comes that I can justify such a frivolous expense, I do have her contact information.

You never know…. I just might call her someday.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.