Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Do Sound Professional; Don't I?

By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, November 20, 2009

Attention ActiveRain folks, this was also posted on ActiveRain so you may have already read it.

LOUD! Do you have a loud voice? You know who you are, you oftentimes admit it. When you talk on the telephone, do you make adjustments for your LOUD VOICE? Here is what happens when your LOUD VOICE is not adjusted; the person called is scrambling for the volume control on their telephone if it has one. In the mean time they feel very uncomfortable and until the volume is adjusted they are really not paying attention to you or what you said.

SOFT! Do you have a very soft voice? Again you know who you are and you as well oftentimes admit it. When you talk on the telephone can the other person hear you? While you are talking they too are scrambling for the volume adjustment to make your voice louder just to hear you and in the meanwhile, they are forming opinions and not really listening to what you are saying.

JUST RIGHT! How do you know? Have you recorded a telephone conversation from the other end to hear what you sound like? This may be the worst position to have, thinking your voice level is “just right” and therefore you have no idea how you are truly being received. In such a case, no change in how you conduct your conversations is even considered; after all, it is just right, right?

TOO FAST! There is only one situation that would be worse than talking too fast on the telephone and that would be TALKING TOO FAST AND LOUD AT THE SAME TIME! Have you ever tried to write down a telephone number left on your voice mail by someone who talks too fast? I have and there have been times I have had to listen up to three times to the same voice mail message to hear a 10 digit telephone number (that is provided they also leave the area code).

T O O S L O W! Come on, my time is valuable and I don’t have time to listen to your slow or long-winded conversation. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. Let the person called know you appreciate and put a value on their time. “I know your time is valuable so I will be brief.” If you are on the receiving end of a conversation from someone you know who is long-winded, tell them up front that your time is precious, “I have an appointment in a few minutes I can only give you a minute. What’s up?” You need to control your time and spending it on long-winded conversations is not a good use of your time.

WHINING! This may be the worst of the worst. Some people just can’t seem to help it, they sound like they are always whining even when they are trying to say something positive. Your voice inflection has everything to do with the message. Yell at the top of your lungs, “I love you!” to your dog and the dog will cower in fear. Your actual words mean little; it is the volume and inflection of your voice, not to mention your body language. The reverse is also true, chew out your dog with a loving and soft voice and the dog will wag its tail endlessly.

The Three Little Pigs Theory (again one of my own theories): If you are talking to someone who has a loud voice, then loud may be just right. If you are talking to someone who has a soft voice, then soft may be just right. Different strokes for different folks. However, when you first make the call, you have no idea what the other person’s voice OR hearing is like. Someone who may be hard of hearing may hear your loud voice as being just right. Believe it or not, some people have very sensitive hearing and loud noises bother them very much. And I know this because…

In any case, you simply cannot make assumptions. The first assumption that everyone makes is that their telephone instrument is perfect and that the sound it produces is of the highest quality – trust me Mon Frère, it ain’t! And like your voice, how do you know what your phone sounds like unless you record? Another common assumption is that the person you are calling has the time for you at that very moment; do not take it personal when they don’t. Just as your time is valuable to you, their time is valuable to them.

Recommendation: Call yourself and leave yourself a voice mail message. You will be able to determine quite a bit from this procedure provided you talk as you normally think you do. If you take the position that you know you are being recorded, quite possibly, you will talk a bit slower to be understood better and you will be more conscious of the volume of your voice. If you do not think this is true the next time you are in a restaurant and someone sitting near you answers a cell phone, listen to how they increase the volume of their voice. Everyone in the restaurant can hear their conversation. And if you listen closely you can also hear the other person’s voice because that person is also talking louder. “Can you hear me now?” That may have been the most disastrous television commercial of all time in regards to voice quality. Everyone has heard it and has probably said it. So whenever you pick up a phone the first subconscious thought is, can you hear me now and you talk louder. You know I am right on this. Hear is another teachable moment. When you call yourself to leave a voice message, for the first time, clear your mind and then listen to your recorded voice message as a customer would hear it for the first time. Is it inviting? Does it show excitement in what you do? Is it too soft? Is it too loud? Do you talk to fast? Do you talk to slow? Does your message give the caller to a reason to leave you a message? How do you know? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being outstanding, how would your best friend rate your voice mail message? Is your friendship strong enough for them to tell you the truth? Just asking.

Better Recommendation: Set it up with a friend that the friend will record your telephone call over the next two months but not tell you when. In time you will have forgotten you asked to be recorded and the eventual recording will be more of your real voice than a voice used knowing you are being recorded.

Best Recommendation: Remember the Golden Rule (a rule I made up of course) of telephone conversations – the person being called is ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING so no matter when you call them, they are busy doing whatever they are doing. It may be something that can be interrupted or not; you do not know when you place the call. Therefore acknowledge that the person called is a busy person and ask if they have just a minute or would they prefer to call you back or you call them back at another time. For example, “Joe, I know you are busy can you spare me a minute (or if longer say so) or should I call you back at a better time?” In most cases since you recognized that the person called is busy, that person WILL give you the minute or two you asked for. Never say you’re sorry that you called because everyone knows that is not true. If you were truly sorry you would not have placed the call. Example, “I’m sorry to bother you…” no your not, you need something and you need something from the person you called. And while we are talking about being interrupted, have you ever called someone between 12:00 and 1:00 pm or 5:00 and 6:30 pm; what were you thinking. Is this not the time most people are either at lunch or supper? Would they not be busy? Dah! On the other hand, if you do not want to engage in a conversation and you only want to leave a voice mail, those times might be the perfect time to call; when they don’t or shouldn’t answer their phone. Leave your brief message and be done with it. 

Back At Ya Recommendation: If YOU don’t want to be bothered while YOU are eating lunch or supper or whatever it is your are doing, DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE! Let your phone or your phone service take a message. Discover the benefits of being in the present moment and focusing 100% of your attention on what you are doing and who you are with rather than letting your cell phone dictate your life!

Keep this thought in mind (if you can):

What I thought I sounded like was not what the customer thought I sounded like and what the customer thought I sounded like was not what I thought I sounded like and we both thought the other person sounded different than what they thought they sounded like. So who was right?


It’s never about YOU! It is always about the CUSTOMER! What the customer thinks is paramount to your success not visa versa. Stop reading and believing the press clippings of your mind; they mean nothing to a customer. The only person that truly matters to the customer is the person the customer thinks you are! Who should that be? Glad you asked – someone who puts the customer’s needs first! If you are not in the proper mindset to do that when the phone rings, don’t answer it.

ABSOLUTE BEST RECOMMENDATION: When your phone rings, immediately stop what you are doing provided you intend to answer it. Don’t try to type in one or two more words on your document or read one more paragraph, stop right now! Take a deep breath, count to 3 and then for just a second or two recognize that this call may be the most important call in the world and you need to give it the attention it will deserve. Who knows, it just may be the most important call in the world; you won’t know until you answer it. And when you do answer it, the caller must think they are the most important person in the world by the voice they hear on the other end of the call. For you-know-who, that would be you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is It Just Me?

Nuggets For The Noggin
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, September 2009
Can we agree that America is being torn apart by politics and politicians drawing lines in the sand? This Nugget is NOT about politics but instead about a seemingly insignificant vote taken by the Senate Finance Committee on September 23, 2009 that clearly demonstrates the arrogance of our elected officials.

No one can turn on the news of late and not see the angry debates, name calling and the massive town hall meetings not to mention the September 12th march on Washington. Lost in all the hysteria is that Americans seem to be growing in their mistrust of their own government to do the right thing whatever that may eventually prove to be.

But let’s be honest, despite your political leanings, half the country is FOR the health care as being discussed by Washington and half the country is AGAINST the health care as being discussed.

This is where the arrogance of our U. S. Senate was displayed in full color. While ridiculous speeches are being given at the United Nations that go on and on and say nothing and the national news media waits on each word spoken, the Senate Finance Committee quietly voted 12 to 11 NOT TO PUT THE MOST CURRENT VERSION OF THE HEALTH CARE BILL ONLINE. THEY VOTED NOT TO MAKE IT AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME. Instead they want to post a “summary” of the bill and whenever someone puts forth a summary, they typically tell you ONLY what they want you to know. Any intelligent person can understand that when something that SHOULD be public is kept SECRET there are things in the bill that the Senate does not want you to see or hear. Is that the American way?

Unfortunately this vote came down almost entirely on party lines. All Republicans voted against it and wanted to make the bill public for 3 days prior to the committee voting on it; and, all the Democrats except one, voted to keep the bill private and post only a summary.

I have a new American Hero, Senator Blanche L. Lincoln, a Democrat from Arkansas. She had the courage and conviction to “do the right thing” and to make the bill public but unfortunately she was the only one on the Democratic side to do the right thing. There was absolutely no harm involved in posting the entire bill to the Internet. Personally I doubt seriously that I would read the thousands of pages of the bill and I feel that most Americans would not as well; but they could if they desired to. That is the important point of this Nugget. Why would you not make the bill available unless there was something to hide?

I don’t know the entire story about how Nero fiddled while Rome burned but that is what our elected officials appear to be doing; at least to me. The country has never been this divided since the Civil War and our politicians are “fiddling while the country is burning” (a figure of speech).

While in the Coast Guard (a government employee), I was taught that if you want something to be approved, you make your report massive, too massive for most people to read. The thought being that since so much “apparent” work went into the report, it must be right. This is the exact principle we are seeing at work in Washington as I write this Nugget.

I would never be mistaken as being a genius but resolution of the health insurance problem is quite simple (notice I did not say health care because there is no better health care in the world than what we have in America, this is a health insurance/coverage issue):

1. Break the issue down to its smallest segments.
2. Determine what steps can be agreed upon by the majority of Americans as represented by our Congress and Senate.
3. Take whatever actions that do not need a vote like targeting corruption within the HealthCare system and demonstrate to voters that tax dollars CAN be saved by oversight. As stated, this does not take a vote in Washington.
4. Create a short easily understood bill that addresses one corrective measure at a time that CAN be agreed upon and then voted on; approve and implement that one segment of the Health Care problem.
5. The more complex issues of the proposed bill can then be addressed one at a time by both houses and the President; surely they can come to some kind of agreement on the correct actions to be taken and it should not be implemented by only Democrats voting to approve it or only Republicans voting to approve it with no crossover votes whatsoever.

As an example to this principle I offer State restricted health insurance. Health Insurance Companies are restricted from writing policies outside of their state borders. That restricts competition. Competition usually makes businesses more competitive in their pricing. Removing these barriers from Health Insurers should make their premiums lower and more affordable. Why has this has not happened? Government regulations for no apparent logical reason. A stroke of the pen can change this practice immediately without 1000+ pages to accomplish it – yet this provision has not been included in any of the proposed Health Care Bills – go figure. This is just one example that should be a no-brainer! Makes me wonder if any of our elected officials in all parties have a brain to think with.

I hate to use the analogy but we (America) have put a man on the moon yet we cannot get 535 representatives to agree on anything but partisan issues. How sad!

I would be remiss if I did not describe my personal first hand knowledge of not being able to trust our government to do the right thing. I joined the military in 1965 for a four year term. We all were told, all branches of the military, that the military is a great career. Stay until retirement and you and your immediate family will be provided free health and dental care for the rest of your lives. At the time and throughout most of my 20 year military career, members took this life-long benefit into consideration when it came time to elect to stay in the military or leave. It was a significant consideration, at least for me, in the 60’s and 70’s and I decided to stay; more because I like and enjoyed what I was doing but partially because of the cost savings of free health and dental care into my retirement years.

I can tell you that life-long free health and dental care DID NOT HAPPEN. Millions of military members served and retired only to find out that their government has betrayed them by NOT providing free health and dental care in their retirement years. Granted we did not have specific contracts in place that identified the benefits offered; we felt it was our government, why would you need a contract? We needed a contract! In the case of the Government, there is no one person whose “word” was at risk; instead it was a collective “word” of the entire bureaucracy; no one was responsible for violating its military. This is one of the best kept secrets in America.

When you are considering the various Health Care Bills being offered and you apply what they “say” (the government) and what the bill will do for YOU in the future, keep in mind your military retirees and be very careful what you ask for – as in the case of our country’s military members, you may get something entirely different than what our government is telling you regardless of what side of the political spectrum you happen to fall on. Me? I tend to vote for the person I feel I can trust, regardless of party affiliation but who also shares some of my core believes and values until that person proves me wrong. Unfortunately finding a trustworthy politician is extremely difficult if not down right impossible.

I would suggest all our politicians take a lesson from Gary Keller from The Millionaire Real Estate Agent:


What a concept!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How To Make Conventioneering Work For You!

Nuggets For The Noggin
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown
November 10, 2009

Have you ever attended a large corporate type convention? There may be several thousand attendees to twenty-five thousand or more. How do you, one individual, make networking at such a large event work for you?

Think small! The first advice I received regarding attending a convention was to go with as many business cards as you can carry and give out as many as you could. For a lot of years I witnessed this approach and frankly it was a useless exercise. Instead of networking on purpose, it was networking by accident meaning that it was totally a hit and mostly miss activity. People would walk up to me, hand me a business card and say something really intelligent like, “Hey, when you have someone moving to San Diego, think of me!” They would hand me their card and move onto the next sucker (I meant to say convention goer; sorry).

First there was no interaction. There was no form of introduction. More importantly there was no reason for me to want to know this person or to keep the business card. Having flown to my first big convention I learned upon leaving that I had a problem bringing home all the stuff I had collected from convention booths, classes, and marketing pieces/business cards handed out by most if not all of the convention attendees. Therefore as I sat in my hotel room I had to decide, what do I keep, what do I throw away. With hundreds of business cards to consider, I first went through the cards and threw away any that did not have a photograph. Like so many people I have a hard time remembering names and faces and it is almost impossible to remember anyone by name alone. TIP NUMBER 1: Include on your business card and promotional pieces a photograph that gives the recipient a first impression that you are someone who looks like someone they would be willing to work with. SURPRISE – not all photographs accomplish this most important task. Some glamour shots you have to look twice to make certain it is the same person.

Even after going through all the cards, I still asked why I wanted to keep all these cards. Over the years they would follow me home, be stuck in a drawer, eventually would end up with rubber bands wrapped around them and ultimately find their way into the trash can. Any Aha here? TIP NUMBER 2: Why would I want to keep this specific card more importantly YOUR CARD? What value does it have for me? If I know, for example, that a lot of people moving to my area come from a specific market area, like Houston, TX, the cards from Houston could lead to future referral business as compared to cards from areas that I may have never heard of. Therefore, one great way to make your card “keepable” would be to also make it “memorable.” How do you do this? Jeffrey Gitomer has at least two ways; one was to have a business card for his cat and would give his cat’s business card to probable referral opportunities. His second method was to hand out business coins instead of business cards. The coins contained his likeness and contact info. Would you keep such a card? I found two methods that worked well for me. First was a baseball or sports type card. It was the same size as a baseball card, in full color on one side and the back was written in the same format as a baseball card. Memorable? There are people who still have that card even though I am no longer with the same company some 20 years later. Another card I found extremely valuable and still use is the card with a photograph of a bottle of furniture polish PRIDE and dishwasher detergent JOY on the back of the card. I would explain that whenever your probable referral opportunity was given the card you would explain that when their friends and co-workers showed pictures of their kids, grandkids, dogs, cats, etc, you show them your “Pride & Joy.” I know for a fact that people put that card in their wallets and do just as I suggested and kept those cards for years. After all, isn’t that the objective of giving out your card? I have also used miniature business cards. They were no bigger than the size of two postage stamps side-by-side. They were all in one color, blue on white. Contact info was on one side albeit hard to read. The other side said, “The size of this card was necessitated to save money as a result of lack of business and referrals from you.” Another card was full size with contact info on one side and on the other, big letters GENERIC BUSINESS CARD. In smaller print, “This generic business card was necessitated as a result of a lack of business or referrals from you.” It causes people to laugh, when they laugh it is much easer to build rapport. More importantly unique cards are oftentimes retained if for no reason than to show other people or to duplicate for their own use. Point made!

TIP NUMBER 3: Later in my career I began keeping ONLY those cards from people who made an effort to at least seem interested in me and what I was doing and where I was from. They took time, real time, to spend with me and instead of telling me all about what they did and who they were, asked me questions about what I did and who I was. You can reinvent the wheel but you would better be served by trusting me on this one – to build rapport with anyone, get them talking about them instead of you talking about you. I would then take their business card and write on the reverse side where we met (at what activity) and briefly a note on what we discussed, just a word or two.

TIP NUMBER 4: Immediately upon returning home, I would write each person who I met that I kept a business card for and write them a hand-written thank you note. I would enclose my card and tell them what a pleasure it was meeting them and look forward to being able to help them grow THEIR business in the future. These folks may or may not have kept the card I gave them at the convention but I increase the odds that they will keep the card I mail them. It may also at least subconsciously suggest to them that this is something that they should have done as well. If that happens, it reinforces how seriously you take your business and who would not want to work with or refer business to someone who takes their business seriously?

TIP NUMBER 5: If your personal promotion materials are not significantly unique or memorable, they most likely will not be retained. Therefore it would be my suggestion NOT to spend money on materials used to promote yourself to hundreds or thousands of people as it most likely will be trashed. Special Ed Haraway, an Exit Realty agent in Maryland suggested, “You want people to remember who you are and what you do from the mailbox to the trashcan!” That may be the best advice I had ever received. In this case from the moment you hand them your materials - to into the shopping bag they carry - and then to the nearest trash can.

TIP NUMBER 6: Instead of shaking hands with hundreds of convention attendees, spend quality time meeting a few people each day. Set a goal of having breakfast, lunch and dinner with a different person or small group of people YOU DON’T KNOW, each day. You can increase the odds of creating a life-long business and personal relationship by targeting people from those areas that you know have a likely chance of referring business to your area or your unique field such as vacation homes or waterfront homes, etc. I guarantee you that if you continually sit with folks you know, especially those from the same office, they are not going to help you grow your business by passing referrals to you!

TIP NUMBER 7: When you attend an activity, make absolutely certain that you sit with people you don’t know and then introduce yourself to them and get to know them by asking them questions about who they are, what they do, what are they doing that has been successful, what one tip would they give someone about how to be successful, etc. If you sat next to two new people (for you-know-who that would mean a stranger on either side of you) and you attended 4 to 6 classes or seminars a day, that would equate to meeting 8 to 12 quality contacts each day not including other opportunities to meet people. In this case you will have the opportunity to spend at least one hour with your new probable referral opportunities.

TIP NUMBER 8: Study the calendar of events to make certain you attend classes/seminars that will enhance your career first and meet people second.

TIP NUMBER 9: Tips 1-8 will be useless if you do not attend. I have for years been amazed that so few people I know in the business attend their company’s annual convention. Attending is how you become known within the company. Attending is how you can build your referral opportunities. Attending usually means that you should learn at least one additional technique or procedure that would generate at least one additional sale that would ultimately pay for your attendance. How simple can this be? Therefore to those folks who have made the decision not to attend I have to ask, “What are you thinking?” Probably, I can’t afford it. You cannot afford NOT to go. I don’t have the time; I’m too busy. Yea right! No one believes that. In fact if you want to increase your business just plan to leave town and your business immediately picks up; you know I’m right on that point.


If you are attending an event as a vendor whether it is a convention booth, a trade show such as Home Show or any gathering of people who could eventually may do business with you or who may give you referrals, you want to stand out. You want people to “linger” at your booth. You want people to take something away from their meeting with you that causes them to remember you and what you do. And, you want to capture contact information from as many visitors to your booth as possible.

TIP NUMBER 1: Have an attractive booth. If you are going to participate in such events, spend the money to create an attractive presentation. There is nothing less professional than paying for a booth or table and having only a table with your brochures displayed on it.

TIP NUMBER 2: It has been my experience that a great many vendors at trade shows set up a backdrop and then put a table between those folks working the booth and anyone who stops by. Eliminate barriers between you and potential business. You want people to “enter” your area and feel welcome and comfortable doing so.

TIP NUMBER 3: To get people to enter your “area” you have to realize that most will not enter unless you give them a “reason." Using real estate as a subject matter, most visitors to a home show, for example, do not have a specific real estate need at that very moment so why would they want to stop and talk to you? Most vendors at trade shows collect business cards or have fill-in-the-blank give-away slips and then give away something of perceived value. While this is certainly a good thing to do, the result is that you may get a lot of names and addresses but you get to interact with only one person – the winner. What about all the other folks who left a card or filled out the slips? Why not spend your marketing dollars on a lot of give-away items instead of one moderately expensive item? You then have reason to contact a lot of people instead of just one. Or, do both! This works exceptionally well if the organizers of the event announce winners whenever one is drawn. You can wait until the end of the event and have your name and/or company name announced only once or you can have it announced every fifteen minutes or so. The choice is yours.

TIP NUMBER 4: Give visitors a reason to spend time with you. This is a bit more difficult especially if there is no reason for them to stop and talk with you. The best such reason I have personally used is a computer, monitor, printer and “what-happened-on-your-birthday” software. I would setup an easel with an enlarged printout of What Happened On Your Birthday displayed. As people would tend to just walk by the booth, I would ask them, “Would you like to know how much eggs sold for on your day you were born or a special anniversary date?” Not only would they stop, they would tell others about the booth and the printout I would give them and those folks would seek the booth out. Since it takes a couple of minutes per person to enter the required information into the computer and printout the result, you have “time” to “talk” about what you want to talk about – your business and how it could help them. Ask great questions about the visitor, not statements about what you do. This works! The problem is that you will have more people stop than you can work – what a great problem to have – so get help working your booth. The software is really cheap, less than $10.00 at most computer stores that sell software. TIP 4B, bring a “slow” printer or setup your printer for the absolute results and that takes longer to print – gives you more time to spend with the visitors to your booth. Check out: as one source for the software.

TIP NUMBER 5: What one thing do all convention attendees seem to have? Not what you think – they all have sore feet. At one show several agents got together and reserved two booths, side-by-side. Instead of tables of brochures and cards, we purchased foot massagers and set up about 8 chairs. At the end of the show we gave away the massagers. People actually lined up to sit and relax. And while they did… I have to draw a picture?

TIP NUMBER 6: Just think outside the box. Do you want to do what everyone else is doing or do you want to be memorable? Don’t be afraid to be different – different will get you noticed. An example of this occurred when I would use PayDay candy bars. The real estate company I work for has the highest commissions in the industry. When an agent from another company would stop by or walk by I would offer them a full size PayDay candy bar. But before they could take it, I would acknowledge the name of the company they work for, put the candy bar in my pocket and then give them a “bite-size” PayDay. It caused everyone to laugh but more importantly it opened the door to some great conversations.

TIP NUMBER 7: I remember and still have a photo of me on the cover of a trade type magazine. A real estate agent had a cover set up and would take a photo of visitors, get their name and address and if possible give them the finished product before they left or it would be mailed. In today’s digital world you only need to take a digital photograph and then superimpose it onto the cover, save and email or print it out and give it to them. I have since seen such photos on the desks and walls of many business people.

In summary, to make conventions work for you:

  • Attend – that’s #1
  • Spend time with a smaller number of people rather than just giving out as many cards as you can
  • Engage other attendees; ask them questions, take notes, follow-up
  • Build relationships
  • Be different – be memorable
  • Instead of selling, find out how you can help the people you meet
  • Did I say follow-up?
  • Learn to be a resource
  • Learn to be a connector by connecting people with what they need or who they need to talk to
  • Did I say follow-up?