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Communication



Jewelry Stores Do It--Do You?
By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
Aug 16, 2008 - 8:59:58 AM

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Jewelry stores shine bright lights on their business. Think about it--ever been in a jewelry store where the lighting was dim, and you could barely find your way around? That's highly unlikely.

Same goes for car dealerships. Visualize a dealership showroom. Notice how the ceiling spotlights make the cars look as new as they really are.

This leads me to a question: How well are you spotlighting your business?

Consider these four suggestions for illuminating who you are and what you offer:

1. Display testimonials from satisfied clients

In the year (or by now it seems like years) of an American presidential race, we get constant reminders of the power of highly credible endorsements. A news headline declaring that a prominent person "has thrown his support to. . ." catches attention and sways votes. Candidates boost their credibility by relying on the credibility of respected leaders.

What's true in politics is true in business. Whenever a person of integrity says publicly that you are the "go to" business, you'll experience a spike in sales.

How do you get testimonials? You ask for them:

*Face-to-face. At the restaurant you operate, Jack tells you "that new item on the menu is delicious." Have a "Customer Comment Card" you can hand Jack, as you say, "Jack, will you please write that comment down and sign your name, giving me permission to share your opinion with others?"

*On your company blog

*On your corporate Web site

*In surveys mailed to customers

*In personal (not recorded) phone calls, placed by a well-known company official

Fortunately, some clients still write complimentary notes and letters. Now all you have to do is ask their permission to reprint their unprompted support statement.

In our age of advanced technology, I urge you to arrange brief video interviews with your most articulate customers. While written kudos still carry impact, think how much more even a two-minute video compliment jet-propels your product or service. The content is simple. An interviewer begins, "Barbara, you have made your business travel arrangements through our agency for fifteen years. Please take a minute or two to tell us what advantages our agents have provided for you."

2. Participate in your community's most reputable causes

People prefer to do business with individuals and corporations who support their community. Possibilities for volunteer involvement:

*United Way fundraising

*Your local hospital's auxiliary

*Serve on the board of a local college

*Coach a Little League team

*Attend Chamber of Commerce functions

*Affiliate with a civic club, and accept a committee assignment

*Enjoy breakfast or lunch where "movers and shakers" gather

One important caution: Your involvement in community organizations and events must combine your quest for publicity with a genuine, heartfelt desire to help others. Hollywood has laughed about the statement, "Sincerity is vital, and we'll get by as long as we can fake sincerity." That shallow approach doesn't work outside of Tinseltown. Most of us can spot hypocrites quickly.

So here's a relevant tip: In selecting where you are going to devote your volunteer time and dollars, choose only the groups you are enthusiastic about.

3. Select, train. and keep Ambassadors, not merely employees

Herb Kelleher, the man who made Southwest Airlines famous, said: "Southwest's communication--its message--is its people. Southwest has 25,000 employees spreading the word as missionaries."

Wow, that's powerful stuff. Kelleher prompts me to ask, "Are your employees your missionaries?"

Truly, putting this bright light in place is a three step process:

*Select only those who will represent you well

*Train them constantly, to keep their dedication and skills at the highest level

*Keep only those who display a missionary-level zeal, and reward them appropriately

4. Remain on the lookout for better spotlights

Imagine this: If a jewelry store owner heard about a lighting system that would replace the current system and make the showcases 25% brighter, you can be sure she would write a check for the new system right away. There are numerous books, CDS, and videos available to help you learn how to spotlight your business more effectively.

Consider giving yourself assignments, such as reading two books a month, attending three seminars a year, hiring a coach, earning a degree, achieving professional certification, and affiliating with others with high aspirations.

The more you invest in professional development, the brighter the spotlight on your business will become.

Communication
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How to Talk With People in Desperate Situations
By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
Apr 29, 2008 - 4:26:46 AM

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Your business survives and thrives through communication that demonstrates your professional competence and your genuine care. Fortunately, you learn what to say for most standard conversations with co-workers, prospects, and clients, such as:

*Sales presentations
*Defusing disgruntled customers
*Job interviews
*Making a pitch to financial backers
*Disciplining an employee
*Requesting a referral
*Explaining a new benefits plan

For these and similar interactions, you learn the right language from your supervisors, role models, and others. These encounters don't intimidate you.

However, some of the people we deal with professionally will experience traumatic events that threaten their well-being and happiness. Examples:

*Serious illness, for themselves or family
*House fires
*Divorce
*Car accidents
*Children breaking the law
*Death of a relative
*Job loss
*Placing a family member in a nursing home
*Bankruptcy
*Home foreclosure

Wow-even reading this list of sad situations makes your stomach tighten. Because you feel awkward and unqualified to help, you might decide: "She's having a tough time for sure. But unfortunately, I really wouldn't know what to say. Maybe it's just best for me to stay away. I'll leave the comforting to clergy and counselors."

I disagree. Every business expert I respect and emulate underscores what Terry Brock, President of Achievement Systems in Orlando, Florida calls the "R factor--Relationships." Well, relationships are not very valuable if they're valid only during good times. In fact, the real test of a relationship's benefit comes when your associates suffer unexpected calamities.

So here are four tips on how to talk with people in desperate situations. They worked well for me during more than two decades in management. They still do now that I am an entrepreneur.

First: When you approach a person in trouble, realize that you may not have to say anything that's creative and memorable. Sometimes, words may not even be necessary at all. Just your presence says enough. The fact that you show up conveys a powerful message itself. While others allow their timidity to keep them away from an uncomfortable setting, you have arrived with friendship and support.

Consider this: Chances are good that the person you visit may not remember your exact comments after you leave. More importantly, though, they will remember that you came to the hospital, funeral home, or residence.

Second: Show up primarily as a listener, not a talker. Usually a troubled person needs to talk about the situation, more than you might guess.

To illustrate, picture yourself at a funeral home during visitation with a woman whose husband has died. For the bereaved, good memories are suddenly more important than ever, because those memories prolong the life of the deceased. Encourage the flow of memories. Here's how:

"I know you two traveled a lot. What were your favorite vacation spots?"

"I've never heard. . .tell me how you two met."

"Your husband was known for his community service. What charitable cause meant the most to him?"

With prompters like those, you will generate thoughts of earlier, happier times. Listen attentively, and indicate occasionally that you want the person to keep talking: "I'm glad to know your children live nearby. Any grandchildren?"

Third: Offer practical, specific help. Yes, distressed people welcome "Call me if you need me" or "If there's anything I can do, let me know." Even so, you shift to a higher level when you move beyond generalities.

"While the shop is repairing your car, want to car pool with me?"

"With you spending so much time at the hospital, would you like the children to stay a couple of nights at my house?"

"What if I come to the nursing home one day next week, so you can go out for lunch?"

Fourth: Check back with your burdened friend within ten days. A traditional response pattern has dozens of people dropping by immediately for the first two or three days of a catastrophe, then disappearing because they have paid their respects. Loneliness, fear, and sorrow grow when silence starts. Your return presence will bring special meaning.

Reconsider these four suggestions again:
*The words you choose are far less significant than the power of your presence.
*Get your colleague to talk about the problem while you listen intently.
*Offer specific, practical help.
*Check back within ten days after the initial bad news.

Not really that difficult, is it? So avoid muttering, "I wouldn't know what to say," follow these guidelines, and you will enrich the relationships you have been building.


Bill Lampton, Ph.D. wrote a popular book, The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life! His speeches, seminars, and individual coaching help organizations "Learn more. . .Earn more!" Bill's client list includes the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Procter & Gamble, Gillette, British Columbia Legal Management Association,Krystal Company, and the University of Georgia Athletic Association. Visit his Web site to sign up for his complimentary monthly e-mail newsletter:www.ChampionshipCommunication.com Call Dr. Lampton to schedule him for your events: 678-316-4300

 

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