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Backstory:  I had the honor and pleasure of doing a keynote program for the National Wood Pallet and Container Association's (NWPCA). I have known the executive director for years as I did a keynote for him several years prior.This keynote was all about the convergence of sales and storytelling. The article below iwas originally written it NWPCA's international magazine, Pallet Central, January/February 2014 Issue.

 

Increase Sales with Better Storytelling
© 2014. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
March 20114

Great leaders are great storytellers. Successful sales professionals are also great storytellers. Using personal stories to illustrate important ideas builds trust and improves likability. The old business adage of “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with someone they know, like, and trust” is true for executives who tell great stories.

Every business leader should use personal stories with specific business messages in meetings with staff, prospects, and customers. Start thinking about experiences in your personal lives that can translate into relevant business messages. Whether personal or professional, we live through each other’s stories.

Why is this important?  2014 will continue to be a time of cautionary spending. Combined with technology advances and increasing influence of social media, differentiation is more important than ever. Differentiation comes both from what your audiences say and don't say about you, and what you say and don't say to your audiences.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the famous novelist Joseph Conrad:  "I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world." It is a perfect match to NWPCA's "Pallets Move the World."  Make 2014 the year of the story. What stories will you tell to differentiate your and your company?  Attend my March 3 presentation at the NWPCA Conference and leave with the ability to tell personal stories in business situations to make a bigger, lasting impact with staff, partners, prospects, and customers.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. As a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story. With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before.  So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?  [Note, this article was originally written for The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)

 

Great Leaders are Great Storytellers:  Five Tips to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
Copyright © The Chief Storyteller® LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
July 2013, Published with The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)


With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. You pick and choose based on what resonates.

So as a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story.

If you were to look back over your career at the leaders that inspired you, I would bet part of what makes you smile when you think of them was their ability to connect to both your heart and your mind. Truly, only through business stories can you accomplish both.

During my career, two leaders have really stood out. When I think of Mike C. and Colonel M., I smile and remember fondly my time working with each of them. They stand out because of how each treated me—they were great listeners, they were great advisors, and they were great supporters. Over 26 years later, I am still friends with Mike C. Unfortunately, I lost track of Colonel M. when I left the US Army.

Why did Mike and the Colonel make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us. And it’s the stories we share about these experiences that help shape the world around us. We live through each other’s stories. The best stories have several key characteristics. They are simple; are easily understood; have immediate resonance; are delivered passionately; and have a positive outcome or learning experience.

Great leaders are great storytellers.

Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting; in front of investors; or before thousands at a shareholder’s meeting, use these five tips to improve your own business storytelling.

Identify the One Thing You Want them to Remember
Ensure your business story has only one key message. In the absence of a clear message, audience members will either forget what you said or create their own interpretation. Think of your message as a headline—about seven words in length. To see the potential power of a headline, try this: Type a phrase into your favorite search engine. You will be greeted with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of pithy, short phrases all vying for your “click me” action. Which one will you click?

“Texture” Your Story
Use a variety of language styles. Imagine you were in an audience listening to some of our greatest contemporary storytellers. They use a variety of techniques and styles such as metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. Be deliberate in your word choices. Be deliberate in using character dialogue. Be deliberate with your rhetorical devices (by way of example, starting several consecutive sentences with the same words is a repetition figure of speech called “anaphora”).

Make the Journey Relevant
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM?What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience, which enables your listeners to understand your business message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. Be sure to answer the audience’s question of “Why is this important to me?”

Only Share the Good Parts
Edit ruthlessly. You have at most, three minutes to share your business story. Don’t think the whole story has to be shared. It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Instead, rethink how you tell your story in a business setting. Typical personal stories told at parties involve boring parts. Lots of boring parts, with the good parts interspersed. The good parts make your story interesting. If you need a little help identifying the good parts, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback. Or next time you tell a favorite story, listen for questions and look for favorable body language. Now edit or omit everything else. Then texture your words around the good parts.

It’s All About Them
Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. Words conjure feelings and emotions. The words you use and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective. Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood?or misunderstood?in a variety of ways. For example, the expression “You’re crazy,” can be playful, argumentative, or even condescending.

Leaders are constantly looked to for guidance and advice. Remember it’s all about them? It’s all about your audience. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?

With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. Be deliberate with the stories you tell and the messages you share. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary Imagine you have spent the day interviewing. You met senior leaders from every department. Your last interview is with Donald, the CEO. He graciously welcomes you into his office and offers you a seat in a comfortable-looking chair. Donald smiles and starts the same way everyone else did…“Tell me about yourself.” Will your answer impress him? What will happen when Donald compares his notes with the other interviewers? What impression did you make and what will everyone say about you? Your answer to “Tell me about yourself” is the elevator pitch of job hunting. All too often senior executives offer an unrehearsed and uninspiring answer. You can only make one first impression…  [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Tell Me About Yourself:  How to Wow Your Interviewers
© 2011. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
May 2011

Imagine you have spent the day interviewing for a position at a major corporation. You met senior leaders from every department. Your last interview is with Donald, the CEO. He graciously welcomes you into his office and offers you a seat in a comfortable-looking chair. Donald smiles and starts the same way everyone else did…“Tell me about yourself.” 

Will your answer impress him? What will happen when Donald compares his notes with the other interviewers? What impression did you make and what will everyone say about you?

Your answer to “Tell me about yourself” is the elevator pitch of job hunting. All too often senior executives offer an unrehearsed and uninspiring answer. You can only make one first impression…

Here are some suggestions for wow-ing your interviewers.

Know Your Audience

Spend quality time researching your prospective company and interviewers. With our challenging current economic situation, it is more important than ever to impress them. It may surprise you how many candidates interviewing for senior leadership positions hurt themselves by not doing the necessary research. Getting to know your audience truly will set you apart.

The insights you glean from the research help you develop a thought-provoking answer that addresses the corporation’s and interviewing team’s goals. You’ll be more memorable while reinforcing your “right fit” (i.e., you did your homework and you want to work here).

Conduct your research as a competitive intelligence analyst. Amass everything you can find about the company and interviewers from the Internet, libraries, and word of mouth.  Search on industry trends, recent decisions, and core products or services.

Great sources of information about the company itself are annual reports, press releases, and articles. Identify at least three of the company’s competitors and perform similar research about them as well. Great sources of information about the interviewers are their biographies, LinkedIn profiles, presentations or interviews they have given, blog postings, and tweets. Be sure to mix in some research on their personal side such as education and hobbies. 

Promise a Better Tomorrow 

Make your audience understand that, by hiring you, you are going to help them build a better future. Companies hire potential. They will hire you for your potential to make a major impact on their business. For example, you will grow the company’s revenue, increase market awareness, and improve brand recognition. Isn’t this why you are being considered? Your answer sets the framework for everything else you communicate in the interview. Above all, avoid reciting your chronological biography.

Your answer should pique your interviewer’s interest. It is an executive summary of your relevant professional and personal accomplishments. Donald and the entire interviewing team are thinking, “Will you be able to repeat and exceed your successes for us?” 

Start with a powerful headline. Think about it:  in any advertisement or article, a juicy headline is what draws the audience in. Elmer Wheeler, father of the mantra “Sell the sizzle, not the steak, observed, “Your first 10 words are more important than your next 10,000.” 

What is your headline? Some examples include “I have been building great brands for 25 years,” “I have a track record of improving revenue dramatically,” and “I have positioned two start-up companies for explosive growth” (read How to Write a Resume Summary that Gets Interviews to learn more about crafting your headline).

Customize, Always

Customize your answer for each position and each company. Each company is different. Each position is different. Keep your answer consistent with the other elements of your professional image (e.g., resume and LinkedIn profile). If your interviews are not leading to job offers, it is time to tweak your answer. Be methodical. Write and rewrite. A fresh perspective is often helpful. Seek out mentors, friends, and colleagues for their frank feedback. Next time you are asked, “Tell me about yourself,” how will you respond?

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Everyone is a storyteller. You are a storyteller. You tell personal and professional stories every day. Whether you direct an international association, manage a government program, run a small business, or serve as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, consider every written, verbal, and social media communication as a business story. You need to inspire others around you to achieve your goals. The greatest bonding and trust-building tools we have are effective stories. Use these three tips to help you leverage your skills as a storyteller to generate results from your various career activities. [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

The Personal Storyteller - 3 Tips to Improve Your Communications Skills
© 2011. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
March 2011

Everyone is a storyteller. You are a storyteller. You tell personal and professional stories every day. You tell them to friends, colleagues, family members, and even to strangers you meet while waiting in line at the grocery store. 

Whether you direct an international association, manage a government program, run a small business, or serve as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, consider every written, verbal, and social media communication as a business story. 

Storytelling is the oldest, most effective form of communication. That’s why stories are in everything we do and say as professionals. Examples include your elevator speech (your answer to "What Do You Do?"), presentations, proposals, emails, website, success stories, testimonials, and social media content.  A subcategory is career stories. Examples include your cover letter, resume, testimonials, recommendations, answer to “Tell me about yourself,” and accomplishments.

By reaching your audience's heart and mind, you access the part of them that wants to believe in what you have to offer. You need to inspire others around you to achieve your goals. The greatest bonding and trust-building tools we have are effective stories. 

As you tell your various career stories, consider the three major reasons people share them in a business context: 

- Inspire action, change, or new ways of thinking 
- Bridge gaps (e.g., culture, generation, gender, and understanding)
- Build a shared vision of a better future

Use these tips to help you leverage your skills as a storyteller to generate results from your various career activities. 

1. Have a Clear Beginning, Middle, and End
Follow a story structure. While there is no absolutely right way to tell a story, personal stories are frequently shared more for entertainment and enjoyment than for a specific business objective. For this reason, look at business stories a little differently. 

One of the most important differences is the need to use structure. People want to know your story is going “somewhere” and it will make a point. Use the classic storytelling convention of beginning, middle, and end.  It’s familiar and time-tested.

2. Tell Your Story with a Specific Message in Mind
Ensure your story has one clear message. Imagine you just finished telling your story. What do you want your reader or listener to learn, do differently, or think about? Do not assume your audience will know what to do with your story or message. You have to tell them in a manner that resonates quickly.

A helpful way to develop a targeted message is to put it in a category. Examples include process, communication, customer service, safety, leadership, strategy, teamwork, innovation, and quality assurance. After selecting the category, apply one of the major reasons shared above (i.e., inspire action, bridge gaps, and better future). Then use relevant words and phrases from the category and important to your target audiences. 

The most important message is the one contained in your answer, “Tell me about yourself” or what I like to call the elevator speech of job hunting. This is definitely a “better future” story. It sets the framework for everything else you communicate. Ensure your answer is short, on-target, and helps your audience understand that by hiring you, you are going to help them build a better future (e.g., grow the organization’s revenue, increase market awareness, and improve brand recognition).

3. Make the “Journey” Relevant
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM—What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience. This enables them to understand your message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. You have to touch someone’s heart before they’ll act.  

Think Differently and Deliberately
With the highly competitive job market, knowing in advance what is important to your audience will be a major contributor to your success. Select the right stories, deliberately, for your audiences. Practice saying and writing your various business/career stories. Find a balance between business and emotion that works for you personally and that resonates with your audiences. 

Look around and listen to the world around you. Observe the storytelling in everything. What can you do to emulate the success in the various business stories you observe in your own stories? Are you ready to share the right stories to the right audiences? And will your stories generate the right results?

Eugene Finerman in The Toastmasters, shared an excellent way of looking at stories. He said, “Every word has a story…one word can tell an epoch of history, define the attitude of an era, or reflect an ancestral sense of humor.”

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary As in the in the corporate world, a unified message is critical to your career success. Imagine you meet Jana, a prospective hiring executive at an event. Based on your brief encounter, you know she likes you since she mentioned the possibility of an available position. What do you think she’ll do first thing tomorrow morning? You can bet it will be an online search. What will she find? Unifying your career communications will set you apart from your competition. It will ensure your target audiences read and hear a consistent selling proposition, supporting messages, key words, success stories, and accomplishments. [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Communications Audit:  10 Critical Communication Elements for Your Career Success
© 2011. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
February 2011

As in the in the corporate world, a unified message is critical to your career success. Imagine you meet Jana, a prospective hiring executive at an event. Based on your brief encounter, you know she likes you since she mentioned the possibility of an available position. What do you think she’ll do first thing tomorrow morning? You can bet it will be an online search.

What will she find? Will she find a dynamic and compelling profile on LinkedIn? On Facebook? On Twitter? How about articles, blog posts, and tweets you authored? Press releases with quotes of yours? Slide presentations from conferences you spoke at? And the list goes on…

After she reads these varied resources, what will Jana think about you? Will she see an executive with a unified message? Or someone with a disparate career story?

Unifying your career communications will set you apart from your competition. It will ensure your target audiences read and hear a consistent selling proposition, supporting messages, key words, success stories, and accomplishments.

Among the many questions you should be asking yourself are the five listed below. Thinking through these will start you on the path of unifying your career communications story elements. The answers to them all must be a resounding “yes!”

1.    Are your social media sites unified for key messages, your unique selling proposition, and personal brand attributes?
2.    Are your recommenders ready to communicate the right messages to recruiters and prospective hiring companies?
3.    Do your written materials accurately portray your skills and accomplishments?
4.    Will your LinkedIn profile quickly impress readers?
5.    Do the success stories (e.g., bullet statements) on your resume also appear in similar formats and key messages in your tweets, blogs, and LinkedIn profile?

Based on your situation and expectations of your target audiences, identify the career communications elements with the highest potential impact. Then map out a plan for completing the top one to three elements next week. Develop the schedule over the coming month to complete and revise the remaining ones.

Look for consistency across all of your career communications elements. Look for consistency in key words and phrases, the tone of voice in your messages, and the attributes of your unique selling proposition.  

1.    LinkedIn (especially your professional headline, picture, and summary)
2.    FaceBook (especially your picture and information tab)
3.    Twitter (especially your background image and profile)
4.    Blog (especially your most recent five to seven postings and profile)
5.    Cover letter
6.    Resume
7.    Recommendations (these are the specific and deliberate written recommendations in letters and in LinkedIn)
8.    Success stories/accomplishments
9.    Ideal Company Profile
10.    Elevator speech/your answer to “Tell me about yourself” (this is your unique selling proposition)

"What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form."
— David Ogilvy

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary When it comes to resumes, people either love them or hate them, depending on where they sit. Hiring teams love to sort them quickly into “yes,” “maybe,” and “no” categories. All too often, job hunters hate having to distill their entire educational background, career history, and accomplishments into just two short pages. This article helps you make the process of developing a great resume easier. It will help you customize your resume to demonstrate the strength of your skills and expertise through powerful, must-read accomplishments.  [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Every Accomplishment Should Be Great:  5 Steps to Compelling Resume Accomplishments
© 2011. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
January 2011

When it comes to resumes, people either love them or hate them, depending on where they sit. Hiring teams love to sort them quickly into “yes,” “maybe,” and “no” categories. All too often, job hunters hate having to distill their entire educational background, career history, and accomplishments into just two short pages.

This article helps you make the process of developing a great resume easier. It will help you customize your resume to demonstrate the strength of your skills and expertise through powerful, must-read accomplishments.

1. List Your Accomplishments
List all, yes, ALL, of your accomplishments for every position in your career. I can hear you grumbling now (smile). It is critical for you to take inventory of all of your accomplishments, big and small.

I’ve seen it happen too often…a job seeker leaving something out of his accomplishments that could compel the hiring executive to say aloud, “Bring this person in for an interview!” Consider this a brainstorming step. Only write one to three short sentences for each.

2. Qualify and Quantify
Qualify and quantity your accomplishments with statistics. Just as with step one, consider this a brainstorming step. Spend only three to five minutes per accomplishment. In step five, you will add more details (see example below).

You may find it helpful to ask yourself a number of questions to capture best the benefits and impact of your accomplishments. The key question is “Why is this important?” Break this question down further and ask, “What were the benefits and results to my organization? What was improved, changed, reduced, streamlined, accelerated, saved, developed, and so forth?”  

“Before” Example:  Managed rollout of new branding strategy throughout our company.

Questions to Ask Yourself:
Did you achieve it on time? Within budget? What measured change occurred to customer perceptions, recognition, awareness, media coverage, sales, etc.? What measured change occurred internally in staff productivity, customer service, communications, processes, etc.?

3. Identify the Success Criteria for Your Prospective Job
Extract the success criteria for your prospective position. A two-column table makes this step easier. In column one, row by row, include every sentence hinting at or directly specifying success criteria from the position description or your own knowledge. You will fill out column two in step four.

For example, here is one sentence from a publicly available position description for a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). In reality, it represents numerous success criteria. Separate out each success criterion in each sentence (see table below for a quick example). The more detailed and specific you make the success criteria, the easier it is to match your accomplishments.

Equipped with clear and concrete examples of expanding and improving a brand, product, and/or service within a business, this person will continually analyze and utilize measurable metrics to improve every customer experience across all platforms (web, e-mail, mobile, tablets, etc.).

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4. Match Your Accomplishments to Key Success Criteria
Put your relevant accomplishments in column two that are matched to the success criteria in column one. Match as many accomplishments as you can. After you have completed the matching process, prioritize your accomplishments within each success criterion. Prioritize your accomplishments based on the position description and your research on the prospective organization.

5. Write and Rewrite
Develop your accomplishments into powerful and compelling accomplishments. Every accomplishment in your resume must support your career headline and your summary (see earlier article, “How to Write a Resume Summary that Gets Interviews”).

Here’s how the “Before” accomplishment from step two was revised.

“After” Example:  Spearheaded rollout of master brand strategy to 11 national and international locations, to more than 3,200 staff. Achieved 94% brand consistency within three years—one year earlier than estimated.  

It’s an Evolving Story Element
Because every position, hiring executive, and organization is different, you must customize your accomplishments for each application. Customizing becomes an easier process when you have a master list.

Remember, your resume is just one element of your business story (e.g., elevator speech, LinkedIn profile, blog articles, tweets, referrals, cover letter, resume, interview, accomplishments, success stories, etc.). In your resume, your career theme and summary set the expectations of the hiring executive. Meeting those expectations means you must offer fully developed (qualified and quantified) and customized accomplishments.

Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895), famous chemist, said “Le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares.” Translated, it says, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  LinkedIn is an integral part of your job search. LinkedIn complements and extends your credibility and therefore enhances your attractiveness as a job candidate. Imagine you were an executive comparing two candidates—both with stellar credentials. One has only a resume, while the other presents a resume and a full LinkedIn profile, complete with glowing recommendations from former bosses, colleagues, staff, and clients. Whom would you prefer to interview? The power of LinkedIn is the access it provides to information about you, information that you define and control, and information not available anywhere else. This article focuses on optimizing your LinkedIn content and messaging.   [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

LinkedIn for Job Hunters: Tips to Create a Must-Read Profile
© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
November 2010

LinkedIn is an integral part of your job search. LinkedIn complements and extends your credibility and therefore enhances your attractiveness as a job candidate. Imagine you were an executive comparing two candidates—both with stellar credentials. One has only a resume, while the other presents a resume and a full LinkedIn profile, complete with glowing recommendations from former bosses, colleagues, staff, and clients. Whom would you prefer to interview?

The power of LinkedIn is the access it provides to information about you, information that you define and control, and information not available anywhere else.

Some food for thought:
-    There are 80,000 million members of LinkedIn
-    Most of the Fortune 500 has at least some of their executive team on LinkedIn
-    For some companies, LinkedIn is used as a crucial filter to determine whether to bring someone in for an interview
-    In a typical Internet search of a person’s name, LinkedIn appears on the first page of search results, and usually in the first five links

This article focuses on optimizing your LinkedIn content and messaging (Note: I’d be happy to write articles on how to use LI in your job search. Please leave a comment with your suggestions or email me).

Here are some tips to create a must-read profile.

1. Create a Memorable Professional Headline
Use the Professional Headline field to make a first impression that screams, “Read me now.” By default, LinkedIn populates your Professional Headline with your current title and company (see Exhibit 1 below). Many members do not change it. Click [Edit] beside your title and customize it to a powerful headline that grabs the reader’s attention. A compelling headline is the foundation of business storytelling. Think of it as your personal brand statement and your unique selling proposition. As in Example 2, it should summarize your potential value.

Some examples include “Building Great Brands for 25 Years,” “Growing Departments into Divisions,” and “Positioning Fortune 2000 Companies for Explosive Growth.” Your headline should represent your personal AND your professional self.

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2. Make Your Summary Engaging and Compelling
Follow up your memorable and customized Professional Headline with an informative and compelling Summary. Make it easy to read and engaging. Use bullet statements, short sentences and paragraphs, search-engine friendly words and phrases, and industry buzzwords.

For content in your Summary, read “How to Write a Resume Summary That Gets Interviews.” There, you will find several specific suggestions with examples. Ensure your LinkedIn summary contains the exact same information from your resume, fleshed out with relevant details. Choose details to pique your reader’s interest and help you stand out. As in business, know your audience. What would your readers find interesting about you? Examples include brief success stories, high-impact accomplishments, guest lectureships, volunteer activities, experiences with hot trends, etc.

3. Improve Your Credibility
Ask for recommendations to demonstrate your credibility and capability. Recommendations from professionals who know your work first hand differentiate you. They serve as “mini” business stories to tout the benefits of working with you and your organization. Ask current and former bosses, staff, co-workers, colleagues, partners, clients and vendors.

In fact, offer to help write it to ensure your key words and messages are included in the testimonial. Each recommendation should tell a different and complementary story about your personal and professional life and successes. I suggest you create a spreadsheet and group your skills logically per recommendation (see below).

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Spend the Time
Use the LinkedIn search function. Type in your desired position title. See how people already in these positions present themselves. By spending just a few hours, you can create a LinkedIn profile to be proud of. And, over time, ask for recommendations, tweak the search-engine-friendly terms as well as industry buzzwords, and continually add to and update your content. Ask friends and colleagues for feedback. And then accept the feedback with a smile and say thank you. LinkedIn should be an important tool in your job search.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  When you scan a resume, where do you typically start reading? Generally, it is the “Summary” section. It is the executive summary of your entire employment history boiled down into about 100 words. It is the most important aspect of your resume. Too often, people try to squeeze in too much. And they do not convey the potential value they could bring to the organization.  If you are not receiving interview requests from well-matched position descriptions, it is time to revise and tweak your resume. Your summary sets the tone for what is to come. Decision makers read many resumes, sometimes hundreds, for each position. Excite them. Pique their interest. Remember, people hire potential, not resumes. What does your Summary say about you?   [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Does Your Resume’s Summary Scream? How to Write a Summary Section that Screams “Schedule an Interview with me Today!”
© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2010

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Let’s pretend you are Rebecca, the CEO of a multi-million dollar consumer products company. Oscar, your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of 18 years, just retired. You received three resumes today from your executive search firm.

When you scan a resume, where do you typically start reading? Generally, it is the “Summary” section. It is the executive summary of your entire employment history boiled down into about 100 words. It is the most important aspect of your resume.

Writing the summary is usually the most challenging part of the resume. Too often, people try to squeeze in too much. And they do not convey the potential value they could bring to the organization.

Here are three suggestions for developing a resume summary that screams, “Schedule an interview with me today!”

1. Make it a Powerful Personal Advertisement
Think like an advertising copywriter. What are the most interesting and relevant words and phrases needed to pique Rebecca’s (your decision maker) interest? Truly, your summary should set the stage for the rest of the resume. It should contain active/action verbs and accomplishments with quantifiable benefits.  Use a few well-placed key words and phrases from the position description and your individual experience. While the entire resume should be tailored to the position description, the summary has to be spot on.

2. Pique Our Interest with Your Business Story
Summarize with powerful phrases hinting at something much greater.  Rebecca is evaluating your accomplishments as much as she is your potential. In marketing terms, this is your elevator speech or value proposition. At its core is a headline—three to seven words summarizing your potential value.

Some examples include “Building Great Brands for 25 Years,” “Growing Departments into Divisions,” and “Positioning Fortune 2000 Companies for Explosive Growth.” Your business story should represent your personal AND your professional self.

3. Use Bullets
The typical summary section is a paragraph, spanning four and as much as 10 lines on the resume. Paragraphs are dense and impossible to read quickly. Most people scan paragraphs, especially on resumes. Instead, structure your summary to the way your reader is likely going to read your content. Use bullet statements.


Example from the Internet
The following is a real example of a summary statement from a senior executive. Let’s call the candidate, Laurie. After the paragraph, there are some introspective questions to ask of yourself you were Laurie followed by three suggestions. 

Results-charged entrepreneurial career is distinguished by achievements in generating business outcomes that favorably impact bottom-line performance and increased shareholder value. Lead by example and build high performance teams by creating focus, achieving buy-in and involvement, and serving as a mentor. In-depth knowledge of the principles and methods of business administration and supervision as they relate to personnel administration, fiscal management, program development, and overall policies and practices. Strong strategy development and analytical skills; evaluate business opportunities and develop economic analysis for entry into new markets and retreat from unprofitable markets. Excellent interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills with all intermediaries – boards, partners, customers, employees, and the public. Decisive, action-oriented, and competitive.

Two questions to spur some introspective thought:
1. How would you rewrite this to tell the business story of a highly successful CMO?
2. What key elements/words would Rebecca, the CEO, want to see here?

Here are three suggestions among many to improve this summary statement.
1. Results-charged entrepreneurial career is distinguished by achievements in generating business outcomes that favorably impact bottom-line performance and increased shareholder value.
>Developed internal customer service initiative increasing retention by 16%, resulting in $3.3 million in additional profits.

2. Strong strategy development and analytical skills; evaluate business opportunities and develop economic analysis for entry into new markets and retreat from unprofitable markets.
>Turned around an underperforming product representing over 37% of current revenue. Implemented a highly targeted, year-long nation-wide sales and media campaign.

3. Excellent interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills with all intermediaries – boards, partners, customers, employees, and the public.
> Delete entire sentence. This is expected of a CMO. Only include content to help you differentiate yourself.

It’s an Evolving Story Element
Each position is different. Each organization is different. Each hiring executive is different. Each team is different. You get the picture. As such, your resume has to be tailored to each position. And your resume is just one element of your business story (e.g., cover letter, resume, interview, accomplishments, success stories, and elevator speech). Ensure your story elements are unified with your headline and core business story (i.e., your elevator speech—your answer to “Tell me about yourself).

If you are not receiving interview requests from well-matched position descriptions, it is time to revise and tweak your resume. Take your time. Write, rewrite, take a break, and continue. Ask for help from friends and colleagues—a fresh perspective is often helpful.

Your summary sets the tone for what is to come. Decision makers read many resumes, sometimes hundreds, for each position. Excite them. Pique their interest.

Remember, people hire potential, not resumes.

Eugene Finerman said, “Every word has a story…one word can tell an epoch of history, define the attitude of an era, or reflect an ancestral sense of humor (The Toastmasters, 2003).

What does your Summary say about you?

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  In June I had the priviledge of addressing participants at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) conference (see blog entry, Charities Must Also Have Great Messages). This fantastic opportunity was because of a serendipitious meeting with Seb Elsworth, Director of Strategy, at a Great Ideas Conference (from ASAE). One part of the conversation led to another and to another and finally to a verbal agreement of me presenting a business storytelling keynote. After the keynote, I was introduced to Agnes Jumah, Head of Marketing. We chatted briefly about writing an article. Find below the text to the recently published article in the ACEVO Network Magazine. In a nutshell, the article furthers the London discussion about the importance of being different in how you develop and deliver your key messages. And second, to be deliberate in the words you use in your messages and where you use them as you engage your target audiences.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


Wow! Tell Me More
© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. 
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2010

Ira Koretsky spoke to ACEVO members at the CEO Summit and impressed the audience with his thoughts on why a unified story is critical to the future success of a third sector organisation. Here he describes how to get potential stakeholders wanting more.

What is the main lesson we can learn from the long history of consumer product advertising? Message unification. Companies have spent billions of pounds connecting to our hearts, to move us to buy their products. They unify words, images, and experiences across their communication materials into one core message, typically with great effect.

Business stories—and their communication of shared experiences—are enduring assets. From you, the CEO, to every staff member, through every medium, everything your charity communicates is a business story.

The single most important business story is your core story—the story that answers the question, “What does your organisation do?” Your answer makes the difference between someone saying, “Wow! Tell me more” or “Oh, that’s nice.” The more interesting, the more compelling, and the more tangible your core story, the more likely the audience hearing or reading it will, in turn, repeat your story to others.

Complementing the core story are your supporting stories. These are the stories and messages generating interviews and publicity, inspiring volunteers, increasing donations, yielding grants and funding, and enabling you to help more people.

Many organisations miss the opportunity to better leverage the power of a unified story. Why? Because they 1) Communicate details and facts rather than goals and success stories and 2) Communicate according to their own, not their audience’s, perspectives. What can a third sector organisation do?

Develop a “Wow! Tell Me More” Core Story
When you pick up a newspaper, what do you read first? Headlines. Your core story is like a newspaper headline. It should grab your audience’s attention with the promise your organisation offers a better future. And the headline should be no more than 10 words.

Here are a few examples:  We are champions of healthy living for the American Diabetes Association; We build futures for the United Negro College Fund Special Programs; We help kids nationwide stay in school for Americans All Foundation; and We build healthier communities through partnerships for The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Develop a Story Library
Do you know what stories inspire people to act? To volunteer? To donate? To provide press coverage? Along with traditional business stories (e.g. articles and presentations), develop your own library of success and case stories to inspire action.

Categorise and reinforce them so your team members are comfortable sharing them at the right times. Tell us about the challenge you faced, how you overcame it, and what impact your actions achieved.

Unify and Update
With the tough economic climate, resources are increasingly scarce, government initiatives are changing the face of the third sector, and corporations are reducing charitable donations. You cannot afford to have a muddled message.

In the absence of a unified message, people will either forget you or make up their own version. Spend the time needed unifying your messages to your core story. Everyone involved in your charity—volunteers, board, staff, partners, and those you help—should be ready to tell your core story with your key support messages. Evaluate your success and update your communications accordingly.

Think Differently and Deliberately
Great stories travel. As with great personal stories, great business stories transform facts into ideas and ideas into action. Action can generate the funding, support, and publicity enabling your organisation to help its clients. To develop great stories, focus on goals and success stories, be mindful of the audience, and satisfy your audience’s needs. For more resources to help you develop unified stories, visit our website for hundreds of tips, ideas, and articles.

Remember the advice of novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

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Article Summary:  By the time you get to an interview, generally, your background is less important than personality. Interviewers are sizing you up for culture fit, personality quirks, trustworthiness, and so on. Often, the little things count more than the big things. Think carefully then about your first impressions while in the boardroom. Here are five boardroom etiquette tips for making both a great first and lasting impression. [Note, this article was originally written for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG)

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Help Wanted:  Applicants with Boardroom Etiquette

© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2010

When you interview for a job, how you act can tell more about you than anything you might say. First impressions, without question, are lasting impressions. Vast amount of research shows people “size us up” in just a few seconds. Add in assumptions people make about you based on your attire, accent, prior employment history, and so on. Together, it is seemingly an uphill battle.

Here are five boardroom etiquette tips for making both a great first and lasting impression:

1. Arrive Early
Make it a habit to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Relax and refresh yourself. Arriving on time shows respect for everyone’s time.

2. Wait to Sit
Wait for others to sit before taking your chair. As long as everyone else in the room is standing, you should remain standing. In most cases, your host will invite you to be seated.

3. Think First
Listen to what others are saying. Allow others to finish their sentences. In interviews, sometimes nerves, eagerness, and personality knock at our door and demand to be let in. Instead, resist all urges to interrupt. Whether or not you agree with the person speaking, this shows you respect his/her opinion. Do not let James Nathan Miller’s words ring true: “Conversation in the United States is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener” (“The Art of Intelligent Listening,” Readers Digest, vol 127, September 1965). For some, purposefully nodding sometimes help with an urge to talk.

4. Follow Barney’s Mantra
If you have children or nieces/nephews, no doubt you have heard Barney’s Clean Up song. One of the stanzas, “Clean up clean up everybody everywhere. Clean up clean up everybody do your share” is appropriate for your boardroom interview. When the meeting concludes, push your chair in and take your empty water bottle/coffee cup with you as you leave. Cleaning up after yourself says a lot about how you will treat others on the job, particularly your peers and subordinates.

5. Write a Thank-you Note
It is truly amazing how many senior professionals today say thank you via email. This is a must. Mail a handwritten thank you note the very same day to each interviewer. Aside from being a great way to stand out, it is a gracious way of thanking your hosts for their time and effort on your behalf. Personalize your note with something the interviewer said or asked.

By the time you get to an interview, generally, your background is less important than personality. Interviewers are sizing you up for culture fit, personality quirks, trustworthiness, and so on. Often, the little things count more than the big things. Think carefully then about your first impressions while in the boardroom.

What’s your experience?  What other tips for boardroom etiquette during the interview process should be added?

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Your clients always tell you what’s important to them. Sometimes they tell you specifically with words and body language. Sometimes they tell you by changes in patterns, human behavior, time to respond to emails and telephone calls, and the list goes on. If you want to ensure ongoing success, be an active listener. When used effectively, active listening can lead to fewer surprises, higher close ratios, and bigger deals.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


The Art of Listening:  5 Ways Active Listening Improves Your Sales Success

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
June 2010


Your clients are speaking to you. Are you listening?

Your clients always tell you what’s important to them. Sometimes they tell you specifically with words and body language. Sometimes they tell you by changes in patterns, human behavior, time to respond to emails and telephone calls, and the list goes on. If you want to ensure ongoing success, be an active listener. When used effectively, active listening can lead to fewer surprises, higher close ratios, and bigger deals.

About eight years ago, I worked for a technology company as the director of product management. David, one of the sales professionals, asked me to accompany him on a call. We just launched a new product and he wanted me on hand to help answer questions. 30 minutes into the presentation, David started sharing the roadmap for our company’s advanced products. His hope was to excite the CEO and her team even further. Elizabeth, the CEO, politely interrupted and said “Thank you, we are not interested in this today. Let’s focus on the basic product.”

Instead of transitioning immediately back to the basic product, David insisted on finishing the advanced products review. I watched Elizabeth cringe ever so slightly. It had an expected ending—no contract.  

Let’s look at several ways active listening improves success.

1. Focus on the Person Who is Speaking
Treat the person speaking as the most important person in the room. Focus on her words, body language, cadence, and tone of voice. Avoid the temptation to interrupt. This is especially true when you feel very strongly about something. Keep an open mind.

With David’s story, imagine you were the sales professional. How would you have reacted to Elizabeth’s request?

To improve your listening skills, attend a networking event just for the purpose of listening. After each interaction, make notes. Do you remember his/her elevator speech? Supporting messages? Likes and dislikes? And so forth. How well do you remember what each person said? Could you repeat it back easily? To make it more challenging, make notes after every second interaction, then every third interaction, until you can master the art of listening such that you can make notes at the end of the evening without any difficulty.

2. Ensure You Understand What is Being Said
Your client may say one thing and really mean another. Whether you are sure or unsure, always ask clarifying questions. For example, “If I were to summarize your two points as A and B, would they be accurate?” or “Could you give me an example or two of what you mean?” Your goal is to vector in on the true issues and problems. Asking open-ended questions is a good way of finding out your client’s true motivations.

3. With Little Effort Comes Big Impact
Use verbal and body language cues to show you are actively listening. These cues take little effort and have a big impact. For verbal cues, use words of encouragement and understanding like “right,” “I understand,” “interesting, tell me more,” and “sure.” For body language cues, make good eye contact. Nod your head to encourage sharing and to demonstrate understanding. Ensure your arms remain uncrossed. Consciously smile. Your overall goal is to encourage while showing positive reinforcement.

Think back to Elizabeth’s story, how do you suppose she would have reacted if David had stopped talking about the new products and quickly returned to discussing the basic products? 

4. Pay Close Attention to How You are Perceived
Start with the belief that perception is reality. If your client perceives you are not actively listening, then you are not—no matter what the reality is. Common reality-changing actions include texting, tweeting, answering the phone, and responding to emails. Devote 100% of your attention to them. Lastly, if you think you are about to interrupt, write down your thought on your notepaper instead. 

The next time you meet a friend or acquaintance for lunch, practice by applying these tips. Try making it through the entire lunch without interrupting your conversation with an external pull (e.g., phone calls, texts, emails, and tweets). 

5. Master the Art of Active Listening
James Nathan Miller made an interesting observation some forty years ago—“Conversation in the U.S. is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener” (The Art of Intelligent Listening, Readers Digest, September 1965).

Don’t let Miller’s observation describe your conversations. Use these suggestions to improve your prospecting and selling success. Show your clients and prospects you understand their business better than anyone else does. Master the art of active listening.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Susan arrives at the office early. She opens her email and finds 36 new email messages. She looks at her watch and realizes she has just five minutes before her first meeting. What emails will she read? Will it be yours? Like most people, Susan will decide with a glance of your subject line and address if she will even open the email you sent. Here are five suggestions for avoiding deletion and generating the results you desire.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Note: This is the second in a series of articles. Part 1 is Avoid Foot in Mouse Syndrome: Write Emails that Generate More Sales.


Special Delivery:  How to Write Emails Your Audience Will Open and Act Upon (Part 2)

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
May 2010


Susan arrives at the office early. She opens her email and finds 36 new email messages. She looks at her watch and realizes she has just five minutes before her first meeting. What emails will she read? Will it be yours?

Like most people, Susan will decide with a glance of your subject line and address if she will even open the email you sent. Here are five suggestions for avoiding deletion and generating the results you desire.

Use a Compelling Headline
The subject line is likely the first thing readers look at. Write the most important part of your message in 50 characters or less. Be deliberate in how you choose your words. Grab the reader’s attention by making your subject line different and relevant. Clearly state the benefit he/she can expect from reading your email. Ensure that your subject line passes the three-second scan. As a suggestion, look at the email subject lines you receive over the next few days. What words stand out? What insights can you apply to your own email marketing?

Synchronize Your Message
People too often take email for granted. Rather, consider email one of your most important assets. It is likely one of the main forms of communicating with your clients and prospects. Therefore, synchronize everything you write with your organization’s core message—your answer to “What do you do? (“elevator speech”). Use the same or similar words and phrases as your core message. Look at everything in your sales and marketing tool kit (e.g., white papers, presentations, press releases, product sheets, etc.) for message points you can repurpose in your emails.

Focus on One Topic
With today’s frenetic, go-go-go, multi-tasking culture, we are constantly looking for ways to do more things faster. As a result, many people put too much information in one email. Generally, people do a quick eye scan of an email searching for key topics, namely headlines. The more key topics and headlines you have, the more challenging it will be to comprehend your email. Focus on one main topic to make it easier for your readers to retain and act on the information you provide. Include three or fewer support points. Overall, keep your emails short and on point. Leave the details to a follow-up telephone call or document attachment.

Write for Readability
Engage your audience with a conversational tone. Write as if you were meeting face-to-face over coffee. For help in making your email content understandable and conversational, try drafting your messages in Microsoft® Word. In addition to the spelling and grammar checks, it comes bundled with two easy-to-use tools: The Flesch Reading Ease and The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

The Flesch Reading Ease measures “readability” of your content. In general, you should aim for a score of at least 50. The Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level measures “understanding” of your content. As articles in most mainstream periodicals are written below the tenth grade level, you should too. Contact me and I would be happy to share our tip guide explaining how to set up and use these two tools.

Deliver Value
Make your emails memorable. One great way is through what I call Moments of Impact (MOIs). MOIs are where you offer something of value. Examples include a) recommendations for articles to read, events to attend, vacation spots to visit, websites to review, books to read, people to meet, and restaurants to eat at; b) referrals to prospective clients, partners, sponsors, etc.; and c) suggestions for helping with specific challenges and issues your client and prospects are experiencing. The more trust and good will you build, the more likely you will have a customer for life.

To improve your odds of avoiding deletion and generating the results you want, follow these tips and be sure to heed the words of Mark Twain, “The most useful and interesting letters we get here from home are from children seven or eight years old…They write simply and naturally and without strain for effect. They tell all they know, and stop.”

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Our work centers have expanded beyond the confines of a single building, state, or country. We are sharing our work with others in different time zones, languages, cultures, etc. How do we bridge these differences and help grow our businesses? Social media. Social media brings us together. Let us look at five key social media tools for raising our international productivity, which, in turn, accelerates our success in global commerce.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


Thinking of Going Global?  Use Social Media to Accelerate Your International Success

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
April 2010


In Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, he told the story of a small pin factory where 10 workers produced more than 48,000 pins each day. Eighteen distinct tasks were needed to make a single pin and each task required a unique skill set. These workers were able to produce large quantities by dividing the tasks and specializing in a skill. Smith believed productivity would have been lower had each of them instead worked independently, building the pins from start to finish.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The productivity benefits from specialization that Smith identified persist. Our work centers have expanded beyond the confines of a single building, state, or country. We are sharing our work with others in different time zones, languages, cultures, etc. How do we bridge these differences and help grow our businesses? Social media.

Social media brings us together. Let us look at five key social media tools for raising our international productivity, which, in turn, accelerates our success in global commerce.

Reach Your Clients and Prospects Where They Live
Develop and maintain a global professional network. Reach prospects where they live. Use social media to build a network of trusted advisors.

XING is the leading European business networking application and is home to over eight million members from over 200 countries. XING brings people from around the world with “wants and haves” together. Imagine that your company is trying to enter the German market. Use XING to learn about German culture, taboos, presentation preferences, potential partnering arrangements, and much more.

Synchronize Your Message Across All Media
Use social media to synchronize your marketing messages across multiple media channels. LinkedIn is the most popular business networking site with over 60 million users worldwide. LinkedIn allows you to integrate content from blogs, presentations, upcoming events, groups, and Twitter.  Because of its popularity, LinkedIn profiles often appear first on search engine results and it is fast becoming the first stop for someone researching you.

When a prospect searches for your name and your organization’s name, what will he/she find? Mixed messages and incomplete information? Or compelling content and messages that scream, “Tell me more”?

Establish Yourself as an Expert
Use social media to establish yourself as an expert. Members share knowledge, expand their networks, and grow their businesses by using Ecademy. Founder Penny Power describes it as “a wine bar where business people meet and discuss life and business—it is a social place where business happens.” Because of the more social emphasis, most profiles contain some personal information.

You can post a variety of content, establish groups, and network with millions of people across more than 120 countries. Your activities increase your visibility in the global marketplace, establish credibility, and promote your business.

Do your research. Find the right experts. Ask the right questions. Sites like Ecademy shave off months or even years from research and planning time.

Solve Problems with Experts from Around the World
Join sites to expand your network of trusted advisors. Imagine having access to a global think tank of corporate chieftains and industry leaders to help solve critical business issues. MeettheBoss and Talkbiznow can help. Members communicate with one another via web seminars, secure video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and text messaging. Discussion groups abound, affording you numerous opportunities to network and gain insights from industry experts. As with any relationship, building trust takes effort and commitment.

Ultimately, you spend less time tackling problems outside your area of expertise. You enhance your own expertise by helping others in areas where you are proficient, which raises yours and their productivity.

Accelerate Your Success and Make Adam Smith Proud
These five social media tools help us exchange information, ideas, and opportunities in what is an increasingly large and diverse global market. They provide specialized resources from around the world, accelerating our success in global commerce—something Adam Smith would be proud of today.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  On September 3, 2005, the screaming and shouting stopped. I finally gave in to writing my first blog. Back then, I did not have the appreciation for the power of blogging that I have today. Well-written, organized, and timely blogs offer tremendous benefits. If you look at social media today, blogging is rarely mentioned as a top application. And the irony is that, more likely than not, sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter refer back to a blog entry as the source of the information. Look at the Tweets you receive. If I were a betting man, the majority of them are about blog entries. Blogs and articles are the foundation of the news and opinion we read today. Your blog is your voice.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


Better Blogging for Better Results

8 Tips to Generate Opportunities from Blogging

© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. 
Ira J. Koretsky
March 2010


On September 3, 2005, the screaming and shouting stopped. I finally gave in to writing my first blog. Back then, I did not have the appreciation for the power of blogging that I have today. Well-written, organized, and timely blogs offer tremendous benefits.

They can: A) extend the value and reach of your brand; B) build loyalty among fans and reach new audiences for your products and services; and C) engage your clients in quick-turnaround conversation while also receiving valuable feedback. Now, several years later, whether out networking or during a meeting, someone comments on my blog content.

If you look at social media today, blogging is rarely mentioned as a top application. And the irony is that, more likely than not, sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter refer back to a blog entry as the source of the information. Look at the Tweets you receive. If I were a betting man, the majority of them are about blog entries. Blogs and articles are the foundation of the news and opinion we read today.

Your blog is your voice. It is your voice interacting with prospects and clients in a sincere and credible way. Here are 8 tips to generate more opportunities to connect quickly to your target audiences.

1.  Make the Headline Memorable
Choose a headline that piques your reader’s interest. The headline is generally the litmus test—people decide whether your blog is worth reading solely based on the “pulling power” of the headline. Think and write like a copywriter.

2.  Leverage Key Words
Include about six key words in the first 100 words of all of your blogs. Maintain a master key word list. Every time you post, pull different and relevant key words. This will improve search engine ranking, ad word success, and help people find your blog.

3.  Content is King
Make ALL of your content relevant to your ideal client audiences. People follow you because of what you say and how it resonates with them. Blogs with too many topics seem fragmented and often fall out of favor quickly.

4.  Harness the Teachable Moment
Communicate like an educator. Keep your audience coming back with targeted, insightful, and helpful information. This suggestion is a bit contrary to typical sales philosophies when it comes to sharing free information. It is expected, in fact, required, that blogs provide high educational value. Every blog entry must offer knowledge, information, and wisdom to improve the lives of your readers.

5.  Personalize Every Blog Entry
Liberally use personal stories with clear business messages. Readers read your content because of their interest in what you have to say. Stand out from the “competition” for your target’s eyes and ears. Well-told stories that resonate on a personal level are always more memorable. Be sure to connect your story with a business message.

6.  Toot Your Own Horn
Share exciting news. Recount stories, anecdotes, and successes about your own conference appearances, presentations, web seminars, articles, white papers, product releases, success stories, etc. Keep these posts to about 10 percent of your total blogs.

7.  Invite Others to Blog
Think of your blog as a growing periodical. Magazines and newspapers showcase a variety of writers. So invite outside experts, former clients, current clients, staff, and partners to contribute blog entries. Your readers benefit from new ideas and varied perspectives. The guest bloggers increase their credibility as an expert while receiving exposure to new audiences.

8.  Offer High-Value Freebies
Give away content to generate bona fide opportunities. Link your blog post to a separate landing page on your website to capture pertinent contact information. Then share the promised white paper, tip guide, published article, podcast, interview, or research report.

Blogging is not easy. It takes time to develop a following. Successful bloggers are patient. They come up with fresh and innovative perspectives on the relevant issues of today and tomorrow. They analyze trends and issues, provide timely advice, and offer insights not available elsewhere. Great blogs are one more way to connect and accelerate connections with prospects and clients.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:   Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

When Nobody Is Looking, Character Still Counts: Make Your Business Stories Credible

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
February 2010

A friend recently told me about a holiday shopping experience he had with his teenage son. As they were finishing their shopping, they just happened to be looking when some of their fellow shoppers thought they were not. Cutting in line at check out and making rude gestures to other drivers as they navigated crowded parking lots were some of the behaviors they observed.

 As many of us in the business world close the books on another year, what behaviors have we exhibited when we thought nobody was looking?  If you are looking for ways to strengthen your character, here are several of my favorites.

Think of Everyone as the Next CEO
Years ago, when I joined ComedySportz, a professional improvisational humor team, I learned many valuable lessons for improving relationships and communication (see Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker: How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell).

One lesson that stood out was the concept of how people treat each other. I turned it into a business exercise with playing cards. At the end of the exercise, we talk about awareness of one’s words and actions. Invariably, many participants are surprised by how unaware they had been of their negative tone of voice and hurtful words they use. 

Irrespective of where you perceive yourself to be in the hierarchy, you cannot go wrong by treating everyone as if they are the next CEO. This is particularly important for new leaders. Whether you realize it or not, everyone is watching to see how you treat people. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect and you will quickly earn trust.  

Helping Others Helps You
Duane, one of my new team members, has some great stories. While studying at The George Washington University for his MBA, one of his professors, Jerry Harvey (author of The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management) had an interesting approach in his Individual and Group Dynamics Organizational Behavior class. Professor Harvey deliberately structured the final exam in a way that required a collaborative effort by the entire class.  Anything short of full class collaboration ended in a failing grade. On the day of the final, Professor Harvey arrived in the class, passed out the exam, and just as quickly, exited the classroom. Duane told me with a big smile, “There were no individual rock stars that day—only the most cohesive group I had ever worked with.”

In business, particularly in difficult economic times and results-driven environments, how often do you take the time to help your co-workers?  How easy is it to push-off requests for help from your co-workers when you yourself are stressed, particularly when the boss is not looking? Part of your success is often helping others to be successful.   

You Get Out of it What You Put into it
I was reminded of this lesson as I watched Conan O’Brien’s farewell on The Tonight Show. He told us that “if you work really hard and you’re kind, then amazing things will happen.” Think about the work you do, your interactions with your co-workers, and your relationships with your suppliers and customers. Are your outcomes in line with your expectations?  If not, it may be time to put a little more into your relationships.      

Why Character Still Counts
Even when nobody is looking, character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Perform competitive intelligence research before making the call or in-person visit. You only have one chance to make a great first impression that prompts your prospect to say, “Tell me more.” You have to justify immediately why the other person should spend his or her time with you. Research to identify your prospect’s true pain points, opportunities for improvement, potential ways of doing things differently, ideas to [blank], and so on. Generic emails, telephone calls, and office visits should be things of the past. Solid research helps spot trends, turns assumptions into facts, and most importantly, makes you stand out.  

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Before You Make that Call: Use Research to Stand Out from Your Competition

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
January 2010

One of my all-time favorite print advertisements is McGraw-Hill’s “Man in the chair” from 1958. Wearing glasses, a bow tie, and a stern look, the seated older man looks right at you and says…

I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now—what was it you wanted to sell me?

Moral: Sales start before your salesman calls – with business publication advertising


In short, do your homework. Perform competitive intelligence research before making the call or in-person visit. You only have one chance to make a great first impression that prompts your prospect to say, “Tell me more.” You have to justify immediately why the other person should spend his or her time with you.

Research to identify your prospect’s true pain points, opportunities for improvement, potential ways of doing things differently, ideas to [blank], and so on. Generic emails, telephone calls, and office visits should be things of the past. Solid research helps spot trends, turns assumptions into facts, and most importantly, makes you stand out.

Focus your research on the stakeholder and the organization. For the stakeholder, look for education, accomplishments, resumes, affiliations, board memberships, previous employment, and other bio-data. For the organization, look for financial data, partnerships, clients, products and services, market and industry data, and so on.

As you conduct your research, here are ideas for using a variety of Internet sites to ensure that you are making the most out of your first impression and follow-on interactions. These are just a sampling of the hundreds of sources available for the United States. Note: remember to fact check.

Leverage Social Media Sites
Social media is fantastic for performing research. Information is easy to access and often plentiful. Among the hundreds of sites, start with some of the most popular, including LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Slideshare.net. Each site has a search tool offering comprehensive results.

Use Traditional and New Media Sources
Spend time with A) national news sources like CNNFinancial TimesGoogle News SearchLos Angeles TimesNew York TimesWall Street Journal, andWashington Post; B) local newspapers where your prospect is headquartered; C) trade and industry magazines related to your prospect’s industry; D) trade and industry magazines related to your prospect’s biggest clients; and E) press release sources like Associated PressPR NewswireReuters, and United Press International.

For new media resources, look to blogs and newsletters. Start with blogs authored by the prospect’s organization and employees, especially individuals you expect to meet. Look to newsletters by the organization as well as newsletters by its clients, partners, competitors, and industry gurus. Additionally, you can often download presentations and papers from conference sites.

Use Analysts, Research Houses, and Bureaus
You have to open your wallet for access to this premier information. Some offer limited no-cost and low-cost resources. Visit D&BDow Jones Factiva,FreeEdgarFrost & SullivanGartnerHooversYahoo FinancialYankee Group, and Zoominfo.

Knowledge is Power
Early in my career, I fell into the “not enough research” camp. Today, I use a variety of sources to ensure that I am as well prepared as possible. On more than one occassion I have found contacts in LinkedIn who have provided invaluable insights into a prospective organization. In Slideshare, I have located interesting and highly relevant product/service presentations. Arming myself with a wealth of information about the prospective organization and its stakeholders has both accelerated and deepened the effectiveness of those sales calls and visits.

Louis Pasteur, noted French chemist and microbiologist, said, “Le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.” In English: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Use competitive intelligence research to stack the odds of success in your favor. 

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Most people cannot. Why? Because that day was like any other day. Of course, no one is a best friend from the first greeting. Relationships take time. The same is true with your best stakeholders (e.g., prospect, boss, staff member, partner, member, sponsor, and so forth).  Either a best friend or a best stakeholder today, the relationship started as strangers. Small talk can be a powerful part of your business relationships. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk contributes to good will, building trust, and better understanding the other person’s personal and professional situations.  Successful professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk practical and useful.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Linda Yaffe (Working Matters) invited me to speak at her Philadelphia business event in September 2009 (read blog entry, Cheese Steak After Workshop. What More Can I Ask For?). From there, we developed a friendship. She asked me to write an article on small talk for her newsletter.

 

Business is Personal:  Accelerate Relationship Building with Small Talk

© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
January 2010


Early in my career, I did not even realize what small talk was or its purpose. I do remember that I thought I prepared well for meetings. In reality, I mainly prepared for factual part of the meeting—the conversation related to the actual topic. I did not prepare well for the human side—the relationship building.

Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Most people cannot. Why? Because that day was like any other day. Of course, no one is a best friend from the first greeting. Relationships take time. The same is true with your best stakeholders (e.g., prospect, boss, staff member, partner, member, sponsor, and so forth).  Either a best friend or a best stakeholder today, the relationship started as strangers.

Small talk can be a powerful part of your business relationships. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk contributes to good will, building trust, and better understanding the other person’s personal and professional situations.

Successful professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk practical and useful.

Prepare Tailored Questions
Whether you are preparing for a sales meeting, budget request, salary negotiation, and so on, always perform competitive and business intelligence research. This is the most important part of small talk success.

Research both the organization and all of the attendees, especially the key stakeholders. Develop a list of questions relevant to them. Choose the information relevant to your situation.

For the organization, know its products and services, successes, challenges, competitors, and the like. For the attendees, look for genuine connections. Think about common topics of interest such as college, hobbies, charities, where someone grew up, and professional associations.

To help you in your research, consider internal and external searches. Internal searches include website, press releases, annual reports, biographies, and executive interviews. External searches include social media sites (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), magazines, newspapers, journals, and professional research organizations such as Hoovers and Gartner.

First Share Then Pose a Question
Let us use a sales meeting as our example. As soon as you walk into the conference room for your meeting, you learn that Barbara, the CEO, is running late. What do you do? Initiate conversation with the other attendees using your tailored questions. Based on your research, share something important about yourself relevant to the attendees you researched. Then ask a related question. By first sharing, you are extending trust.

One example is “Sanjay, I graduated from DEF University with masters in economics in 19XX. I noticed that you went to GHI for your MBA. What did you like the most?” Another example is “Jason, I am also active in ABC charity in my area. How are your experiences with ABC?” A third example, “Susana, I read in USA Today about your new approach to process improvement. We did something similar a few years ago. How is your approach progressing?” The right small talk can uncover information and insights on a variety of personal and professional areas.

Gauge Receptivity
Understand and tune into the personalities of the attendees. Does Barbara, Sanjay, Jason, or Susana prefer small talk or business talk (conversation on the actual topic at hand)? Unsure? Dip your toe into the pool. Follow his/her lead. Start-of-meeting small talk should last only a few minutes. If Barbara does not provide timing cues, transition to business talk within five to seven minutes. Since you did your pre-meeting preparation and research on the organization, your deliberate small talk complements the agenda. Your small talk continues to be relevant and important to the meeting. It establishes your efforts to understand and gain familiarity with Barbara and her organization.

Relationships Take Time
Recognizing that relationships take time, maximize each opportunity you have with your stakeholders. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your stakeholders.

Deliberate, well-crafted small talk accelerates building lasting relationships. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to most relationships. Why? Because business is personal.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:   Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: 5 Activities You Really Should Do
© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 2009

 

About three years ago, I was in a local retail store. While chatting with Mark, the friendly sales associate, he asked me what I did. For some reason, I hesitated and almost said, “I’m in the marketing field.” Instead, I faithfully delivered my elevator speech (your answer to “What do you do?”). I piqued Mark’s interest. Instantly, he started talking about his challenges and difficulty in finding clients for his part-time art business. Thirty minutes later, we exchanged contact information. A week later, Mark started drawing business cartoons for me. Guaranteed, if I responded with the typical “I’m in marketing” answer, the opportunity would have been missed.

“Remember that the person you’re about to meet can become as important to you as someone you’ve known for years.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book, could not have said it better. I can recall dozens of random and unplanned events where I turned strangers into new friends and clients, gained new ideas, or learned something new. Some of the events may seem small while others large. The question is, will you make the most of the interaction or will you let it pass on by? 

Here are five scenarios that occur to each and every one of us, if not on a daily basis, certainly weekly. Think about how you can maximize these experiences as they relate to you and your personal and professional life.

Talk to the Woman on the Grocery Store Line
p>If I had a dollar for every time someone shared a story about meeting someone on a line, I could retire now. Whether it is a line at the grocery store, waiting room at the doctor’s office, registering for your child’s soccer team, or listening for your name to be called at a restaurant, think about talking to the stranger beside you. Gauge the receptiveness of the person with a short, in-the-moment comment about something relevant to the situation you are sharing. Then see where things go from there.

Make THE Telephone Call
I read a long time ago in Selling Power Magazine to make THE call. The call is the one you do not want to make. You know…the one to the “challenging client” or the one where you will likely hear “no thank you” to your proposal. By making the call early in the morning, you significantly reduce your anxiety level for the rest of the day. And then, everyone benefits!

Send the Quick Email
Email is quick, easy, and painless. As a society we have become so used to email that you should be sending more to recognize people. There are so many reasons to send “that” quick email. Some reasons include birthdays, anniversaries, articles, ideas, links to a [blank] (e.g., website, newsletter, tweet, and blog), referrals, and updates on a significant personal or professional event.

Attend the XYZ Networking Event
“I’m too tired, I’ll skip this one” is an all-too common refrain. Instead, view networking as an integral part of your day. Make it part of your weekly routine. Attend breakfast, lunch, dinner, and social events throughout the week. Remember to view these as business blind dates…you may just meet your next best client or partner.

Always be Ready for What Do You Do?
While the question asked is “What do you do?” the answer people are looking for is “What can you do for me?” Therefore, it must pique your reader/listener’s attention. Ensure your elevator speech takes less than 30 seconds to say, is memorable, is easy to understand, and evokes a “Wow! Tell me more” response.

Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Whatever that day was, it took time from the first contact to develop that relationship into best friend status. Now think of your best client, partner, member, employee, or board member. Someone initiated the first contact—created that first impression. Now that we are in the holiday months, parties and social events abound. People are generally in a better mood and more receptive to talking to strangers. Take advantage of every opportunity to create your own positive first impressions and maintain lasting relationships.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  The penultimate goal of networking is to meet or be introduced to “Key Decision Makers” (KDMs). They are your influencers, opinion leaders, check-writers, and contract signers at your prospect’s organization. In today’s sluggish economy, they frequently weigh price heavily before making purchases. Strong relationships will likely tip the decision-making process to you. The three “must do” activities to ensure that networking pays off include 1) Research your prospective key decision makers; 2) Develop your ideal event profile; and 3) Develop your target networking plan. The glue that brings all three of these together is be deliberate. 

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Make Networking Pay Off: How to Find the Right Events for You

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
November 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of them all? A little play on words as I think about the sheer number of networking opportunities there are in any given month. To give you an idea, type the phrase “networking organizations” into any Internet search engine. Bing shows 2,360,000 results for San Francisco, CA. Google lists 87,900,000 for Washington, DC. Yahoo displays 2,620,000 pages for Austin, TX. Obviously, not all of the pages relate to professional networking. The point is that networking is everywhere. So how are you to choose which events to attend?

A common complaint of networking is that it is a waste of time. After talking to thousands of people about networking over the past years, two major reasons for this perception begin to emerge. The first is that many networkers do not have a compelling business story—an elevator speech that prompts further conversation. The other is that people are not attending the right events. Let’s focus on the second challenge.

The penultimate goal of networking is to meet or be introduced to “Key Decision Makers” (KDMs). They are your influencers, opinion leaders, check-writers, and contract signers at your prospect’s organization. In today’s sluggish economy, they frequently weigh price heavily before making purchases. Strong relationships will likely tip the decision-making process to you. Here are three “must do” activities to ensure that networking pays off.

Research Your Prospective Key Decision Makers
As part of each new client engagement, I ask a wide variety of questions related to how the sales team communicates, networks, and attracts clients. One telling answer is that they read only what interests them. It is, of course, natural for us to read what is interesting to us.

In sales, it’s all about them. Them refers to your Key Decision Makers. When you customize your various sales and marketing pieces, you have to know what they are thinking, talking about, losing sleep over, etc.

To be successful at networking, research 1) what are the KDMs thinking about and 2) where are they going to find answers to learn more. During your sales process, ask them direct questions about what they are reading and thinking. Ask where they network to learn new insights, to meet colleagues, and to find new business opportunities. Start your own mini database listing the associations and groups your typical KDMs attend.

Supplement your knowledge and add to your event database with competitive intelligence found on the Internet. Perform searches related to your KDMs and the types of events they are attending. LinkedIn is a good resource to start your research. Find some Key Decision Makers in LinkedIn and look at the categories and kinds of groups he or she has joined. Use these insights to help refine your networking strategy.

Develop Your Ideal Event Profile
There are events for breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner, coffee, weekend socials, children’s activities or school-related, religious social gatherings, fundraisers, fancy galas, association meetings, conferences, educational events, private parties, and the list goes on! How do you choose? Follow Rod Tidwell’s (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) advice in Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money.”

Only attend events that provide benefits to you. Benefits can be new clients, partners, ideas, referrals, and suggestions. The key is having an Ideal Event Profile (IEP). An IEP spells out the events that will yield benefits time and time again. The IEP is focused completely on finding Key Decision Makers or people that can introduce you to KDMs.

Remember that the IEP reflects the KDM’s choices, not yours. In your IEP form, include the basics such as industries represented; best time of day to attend; purpose of event (e.g., conference, education, meeting, networking, social, and training); and cost (cost is highly correlated with job titles—generally, the higher the cost, the more senior the attendees). Now add other fields to customize the IEP to your sales process and ideal clients such as favorite associations, charitable events, social clubs, and preferred special events.

Develop Your Target Networking Plan
Put your KDM hat on. Armed with research and an ideal event profile, develop a rolling three-month plan listing the events to attend. Prioritize your list based on how the KDM thinks and acts. Also try mixing the time of day and geography (some people stay close to their office or home when it comes to attending events) to maximize the number of people for you to meet.

Attend events from your list. Measure success. Are you meeting KDMs from prospects that are a good fit for your organization? If not, then evaluate if your story is working, is your IEP is on target, or if you are attending the right events.

Be patient. It generally takes four to six months of consistent networking to build rapport and begin to establish trust. If your deal size is six figures or more, prepare for a longer relationship cycle.

Successful Networkers are Deliberate
Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, referred to Aristotle’s approach to happiness. Durant wrote, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” As part of prospecting, you develop call plans and call visits based on targeted research. Successful networkers follow the same approach. Successful networkers are deliberate in researching events to attend, choosing wisely who to spend time with, and selecting target clients with follow up activities.

For the majority of my clients, I can track the source of the introduction or meeting back to a specific person, keynote, workshop, or event attended. Can you?

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. This article relates lessons learned from my parents and how I apply them to business and sales.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Life Lessons: Everything I Learned about Sales I Learned from My Parents

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
October 2009

During a recent speaking engagement, the topic of first jobs came up. I shared with the audience the story about my paper route. When I was 13, I surprised my parents by taking on a newspaper route for a little-known newspaper company. The route initially had 11 customers. The route traversed some four miles and ended with massive huffing and puffing as I battled a bear of a hill—Mt. Hope Road—which I named Mt. Doom Road. None of my family remembers why the entrepreneurial bug bit me back then. Mom and Dad do remember my tenacity in growing the route, refusal to quit when the odds were stacked against me (paper boys typically did not last long), and positive attitude bicycling up Mt. Doom Road on my three-speed bike.

Talking with my folks prompted me to recall some of their parental lessons. Here are several learned and how I apply them to business and sales.

Ask
He was a born sales man. Always top in his field, Dad had lots of wisdom to share. Of all his lessons, “Ask” was the one Dad emphasized the most. He would say, “If you don’t ask, nothing is going to happen.” A great example is when our family went on holiday vacations. Smiling and making relevant small talk, he would register the family with the hotel front desk. Every single time he would ask if breakfast was included for the family. Even if told no, he always turned it into a yes. Similar stories abound with him asking for a little “yes” or a big “yes.” To this day, I follow his advice.

Application: Ask. Ask for referrals, frank feedback, and request clients to test out your new product or service. How about asking a happy client to write a testimonial? Later in life, I learned another application of Ask from a senior boss named Paul. He called it K.I.S.S. Paul suggested asking our clients what should we Keep doing, Improve upon, Stop doing, and Start doing.

We’re All Different
When we are young, especially in our pre-teen and teenage years, it is difficult to imagine what the real world is like. Therefore, Mom and Dad shared with my sister and me different perspectives and exposed us to many experiences. We visited museums, went on weekend driving getaways, and generally explored our environment. During these outings, they showed us how to appreciate differences among people, such as those related to gender, religion, age, nationality, and so forth.

Application: Know your audience. Every time you meet someone for the first time, you are “inheriting” his or her entire lifetime in a split second, as he or she is of yours. What are you doing from that first handshake, that first smile to engender goodwill so that he or she one day becomes your client, partner, employee, or champion? Are your key messages and business stories targeted to your prospective clients? Are they resonating with them?

Go Play Outside. It’s a Beautiful Day
As a child, there were days I preferred time alone. I built plastic model ships and planes, played with little green army men, and imagined I was in battles with my G.I. Joes. Mom would encourage me to go outside and play with my crew. If we had time, I would share story after story of how our crew of four—Andy, Gerald, Kevin, and me—got in and out of trouble!

Application: Vary your experiences. Mom’s goal was to experience life. Use creativity and innovation to improve your competitiveness, increase prospecting success, and spark new ideas. Get out of your office and observe the world. Read books, articles, and blogs you would not normally consider. Seek out different opinions. Attend new networking events. Check out your competitor’s messages and stories. Observe people. Based on your new experiences, see if you can you spot any trends or come up with an idea to improve your product/service.

I Love You!
According to workplace studies, employees rate recognition higher than monetary rewards. Why? Because humans thrive on accomplishments, praise, community, and friendship. To me, business is always personal—it is always based on the power of relationships. That is why my folks frequently complimented, praised, and said I love you to my sister and me.

Application: Say I love you in business terms. It is easy to substitute an email, a text, or a “form letter” for a personal phone call or hand-written note. Since we live in a 24×7 Internet world, my undergraduate students consistently challenge me on my advice to send a hand-written note instead of emailing a thank-you message. And every semester I say the same thing. The hand-written note wins every time. A colleague Jeremy calls everyone in his contact database on his/her birthday. It is a nice touch and memorable. Treat a client to lunch, buy him a gift card, or give her a fresh-baked pastry. Whatever it is, show them (e.g., client, prospect, staff, and partner) that they matter. Email me and I will send you a tip guide with over 30 suggestions on ways of building and growing relationships.

At the End of the Day…
Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. Most focus on the human condition and attributes such as kindness, appreciation, and open communication. One key element is to vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Do not assume that your client, prospect, staff, or partner knows what you are thinking, what you appreciate, or how you impacted his or her life. Tell them.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Deliberate small talk differentiates you.We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Business is Personal: Build Rapport with Small Talk

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2009

Relationships are not built in a vacuum. They are collaborative efforts, established one moment at a time. Deliberate, well-crafted small talk conversations accelerate bonding and rapport. Imagine this: you made a great first impression on the telephone with William, CEO of a Fortune 2000 firm. A few days later, you are on your way to the follow-up meeting at his office. Are you prepared for your “second” impression?

Early in my career, I thought I prepared well for the second meeting. In reality, I only prepared for part of the meeting—the conversation related to the offering. I did not prepare well for the human side—the bonding and rapport.

Many people complain that small talk is a waste of time, that is feels forced and fake. On the contrary, small talk is essential to building rapport and establishing a relationship. By following the suggestions below, small talk becomes a powerful part of any sales meeting. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk done well accelerates connection. Small talk contributes to sales and customer service success every time you meet with prospects and clients.

There are several types of small talk. Edmondson and House (1981) describe the most common type as the words exchanged before transitioning to “business talk” (see end of article for references). Business talk is talking about the agenda items. Drew and Chilton (2000) define another type as simply “keep in touch.” Saftoiu (2006) presents a third type as “transitional” small talk. Transitional “consists of short conversations inserted within business talk…to check on the state of the relationship and to release some of the tension that heavy topics might have brought up.”

The best sales professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk an important part of your sales toolbox.

Develop a List of Questions
Always perform competitive and business intelligence research. This is the most important part of small talk success. Research both the organization and all of the attendees, especially the “Key Decision Makers” (KDMs). Develop a master list of statements and questions relevant to your attendees, sorted by priority. Regarding personal questions, your interest must be genuine (insincerity is quite easy to discern).

For the organization, know its competitors, products and services, history, recent successes, future challenges, and the like. For the attendees, look for genuine common interests. Examples include where someone grew up, attended school, and their hobbies, charities, and professional associations.

There are many valuable resources out there to help you in your research. Internal resources include the organization’s website, press releases, annual reports, interviews with executives, conference presentations, biographies, and investor presentations. External resources include Hoovers, Gartner, Forrester Research, Yankee Group, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, Slideshare.net, Internet search engines, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Now your conversations are targeted and deliberate.

Gauge Receptivity
Understand and tune into the KDM’s personality. Does William prefer small talk or business talk? Unsure? Dip your toe into the pool. Follow William’s lead. Whatever his preference, you are prepared.

Start-of-meeting small talk should last only a few minutes. If William does not provide timing cues, then you should transition to business talk within five to seven minutes. Since you did your pre-meeting preparation and research on the organization, your deliberate small talk complements the agenda. Your small talk continues to be relevant and important to the meeting. It establishes your efforts to understand and gain familiarity with William and his organization.

Share and Ask
Let us assume that there are several people attending your meeting. As soon as you walk into the conference room, you discover that William is running late. Begin your bonding and rapport with the folks in the room with your prepared list of statements and questions. As you initiate conversation, remember the key to successful small talk is “share and ask.”

Based on your research, share something important about yourself relevant to your KDM. Then ask a related question. By sharing something about yourself first, you exhibit positive signs of trust.

One example is “Margaret, I am also active in XYZ association. How are your experiences with XYZ?” Another example is “Damodar, I graduated from EFG University with an MBA in 19XX. I noticed that you went to LMN for your MBA. What did you like the most?” A third example, “Sofia, I read in the Wall Street Journal about your new [blank] initiative. We did something similar a few years ago. I’m curious, how is this initiative progressing?”

The answers will likely offer insights into how the KDM thinks. The right small talk can uncover information about potential cross-selling opportunities for their future product launch, new customer service strategies, and more.

Deliberate Small Talk Differentiates
We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.

Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.

References:

- Willis Edmondson and Juliane House, Let’s Talk and Talk About It. A Pedagogic Interactional Grammar of English, 1981.
- Paul Drew and Kathy Chilton, Calling Just to Keep in Touch: Regular and Habitualised Telephone Calls as an Environment for Small Talk, 2000.
- Razvan Saftoiu, Laughter in Small Talk: Aspects from Romanian Interactions, 2006.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to key decision makers, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you.” In this article I address three major points of Improv is Just Like Sales, Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?, and We All Desire Appreciation. Also, two exercises are suggested to offer insights into the words you use in writing and verbally. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.” Every interaction, whether in person, by telephone, in writing, or email, affects your relationships.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker: How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
August 2009

Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to key decision makers, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you” in your sales process.

The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. Someone seemingly uninvolved in the process may have unseen pull or be a quiet champion.

The best sales professionals are like improvisational theatre (improv) performers making the most of every moment with clients, partners, and prospects. I know this from first-hand experience! Over a ten-year period, I performed more than 1,000 shows live on stage with a national improvisational comedy franchise called ComedySportz.

Improv is Just Like Sales
Improv performances are live shows where the performers play unscripted games based on audience suggestions. As performers, we had absolutely no idea what an audience member would say next. Improv mirrors life. Most life experiences arise from random interactions with people.

In improv, you do not know who will be in the scene at any given time and you do not know with certainty what someone will do or say next. Sales is like improv. To help ensure your success in selling, let us explore status, one of improv’s foundation concepts. Used well, it can become a critical communication technique to help you deal with changing business environments with ease.

Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?
Whether your sales cycle is short, long, or complex, it is imperative for you to know who is involved in the decision-making process and the role each person plays. We all strive to spend time with Key Decision Makers (KDMs) and their key staff.

Some sales professionals, consciously or not, exhibit obvious differences in how they treat key staff perceived as having lower “importance” or “value.” In improv, this treatment is called “status.” Examples of treating someone with low status include long response times to emails and telephone calls; discounting ideas, comments, or questions raised in meetings; and even more blatantly disrespectful actions that, sooner rather than later, everyone notices. We all have heard stories where disrespect of key staff, subtle or overt, led the sales professional to be shown the exit. If I were a betting person, the poor behavior was rooted in perceived status.

Some of the greatest comedians use status. Rodney Dangerfield was famous for using self-effacing humor. He told jokes giving him lower status compared to everyone else. A classic joke is “I get no respect. Even as a kid. We would play hide-and-seek, and nobody would look for me.” Here is another example of human behavior in action. Imagine a movie with a pompous couple. We watch them treat everyone poorly. As they exit their limousine, a passing car splashes a large puddle and they get soaked. We laugh aloud because their status changes instantaneously, as we say to ourselves, “Justice served.”

Rather than choosing a status level, treat everyone like a Key Decision Maker. In this way, you will avoid many pitfalls and show yourself to be an attentive communicator.

We All Desire Appreciation
Year after year, employee compensation surveys report, among the top responses for desired reward was appreciation for one’s contribution and recognition from superiors. It is one of the qualities of being human—our desire for acknowledgement and appreciation of our efforts and accomplishments. Given the impact showing appreciation has, use body language, tone of voice, and words to place each person in a high status position.

Here are two exercises to help you improve your understanding and use of status as you face your selling situations.

Exercise 1, Language Scan: Examine your choice of words in emails, calls, presentations, proposals, networking—everywhere you are telling your business story. Look for words and phrases you use often and the tone of voice used in your vocabulary, spoken and written. Are there patterns that emerge? How about responses from your listeners and readers? Are they positive and inquisitive or unresponsive and aloof? Learn what works for your audiences and then accentuate the language generating the results you want.

Exercise 2, Yes And: Focus completely on what is being said and not on what might be said. When on stage, performers respond to every communication nuance of their fellow performers. Yes And forces you to listen and respond to everything someone says or does. This affords them high status. To achieve complete focus, mentally precede each of your responses with “Yes, and.” Avoid negative words like “but,” “although,” “however,” and “on the other hand.” Mastery of this technique dramatically improves written and verbal communication. Review a recent email where you used one of the negative words, most likely “but.” Delete “but” and either replace it with “and” or a period. Can you see the positive difference this small change makes?

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.” Every interaction, whether in person, by telephone, in writing, or email, affects your relationships. By treating everyone like a key decision maker, you will be on the path to building stronger and more profitable business relationships. In addition, sometime in the future, a key staff person will likely be your next key decision maker.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

I met Alan Schlaifer several years ago during a Wharton Alumni event in the Washington, DC area. A few months ago we found ourselves sitting at the same table during an evening event. Later in the night, we got caught up on each other's respective lives. I learned that he writes a column for The Resort Trades. Resort Trades "established in 1986, is a super-tabloid news and information source publication targeted specifically at the Resort and Timeshare sales industry" (from the website). One of his upcoming articles was helping organizations be more effective in sales. He asked me to participate.

Alan wrote 13 suggestions. I contributed #12, "Where Do I Sign? Three Suggestions for Improving Your Sales Success." My three suggestions were (a) Develop and follow a consistent messaging process; (b) Create a story inventory; and (c) Fill in your story gaps. The entire article has more details (see below). Two of my favorites included 8. Consistently Create Moments of Magic and 10. Share Best Practices Throughout Your Company.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Are You Prepared for Recovery?

23 Strategies to Get on Track, Engage Customers & Employees, & Gain Market Share

by Alan N. Schlaifer
Principal
Law Offices of Alan N. Schlaifer, P.C.

“What Happened to the Depression?” - Headline of recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Dr. Allan H. Meltzer, Carnegie-Mellon Economics Professor

Unlike the situation earlier in the year, U.S. and world business news is focusing on fewer negatives and even occasional positive developments. American housing prices and sales no longer seem to be in free fall across the country. In some markets, a recovery seems to be occurring.

More public companies are beating Wall Street earnings and sales estimates. One result has been that, as of this writing, major stock market indexes in the U.S. and foreign nations are up 10 to 50% or more from the lows just a few months ago.

Recent Wall Street Journal stories had headlines such as, “Car Makers Upbeat as Sales Rebound,” and “Big-Ticket Orders Surge 4.9% Amid Rising New Home Sales.” The latter story noted that “orders for big-ticket items from airplanes to appliances surged in July at their fastest pace in two years, reflecting improvement in the manufacturing sector.” Indeed, total U.S. manufacturing was up for the first time in 18 months.

These gains may not hold or continue at a regular pace – recall old master Bernard Baruch’s comments about the future, “Stocks will fluctuate.” So does the economy. Yet, the worst seems to be over for now.

Travel – albeit with many shorter trips, more often by car than plane – has been responsive to great deals in most lodging markets. Consumers continued to make tens of millions of trips throughout the summer and on long holiday weekends.

With the new Ken Burns six-part series, “The National Park: American’s Best Idea,” airing this Fall, and numerous enticing promotions from public and private sources, a vast audience is finding its wanderlust ignited. Real experiences and values – such as the vacations people need to share with their loved ones, and which vacation ownership offers in so many magnificent ways – can convert them from the “staycation” to a “vacation” perspective.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset: See the Light
Consider the positive side of this situation, from an article by senior Fortune writer Geoff Colvin earlier this year:

It’s hard to be upbeat in a recession, but it truly is an opportunity. Marathoners and Tour de France racers will tell you that a race’s hardest parts, the uphill stages, are where the lead changes hands. That’s where we are. When this recession ends, when the road levels off and the world seems full of promise once more, your position in the competitive pack will depend on how skillfully you manage right now.


2. Use the Recession’s Silver Lining to Innovate Strategically
Further examples from the business world are in Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times, a new book by Scott Anthony, President of Innosight, sCambridge, Mass.

He cites great companies - Hewlett-Packard, United Technologies, and Revlon – all of which started in the Great Depression. Microsoft, Genentech, and The Limited were all founded during recessions. And lest you need a reminder, vacation ownership began and started to grow dramatically during tough times in the resort real estate market.

On Anthony’s website, www.innosight.com, he cites three rules to innovate strategically in lean times:

* Stop low-potential innovation initiatives through judicious pruning of your portfolio — then rechannel freed-up resources into your most promising initiatives.
* Change key innovation processes. For example, target your most value-conscious customer segments and reconfigure your offerings to not only reduce costs but also deliver new benefits customers are eager to pay for.
* Start the personal reinvention required to remain flexible in the face of constant change. For instance, get comfortable with the paradoxes inherent in downturns — such as having to run your company’s operations with laser-like precision while also fostering creativity.

He says, “In any bust time, you need to pare costs to the bone while also planting and nurturing the seeds needed for tomorrow’s growth.”

3. Balance Optimism with Realism to Prepare Your Recovery Plan
Industry veteran John Sweeney, RRP, President, Global Resorts, Inc., Las Vegas (“GRI,” www.globalresortsinc.net), says, “Sure, it has been a harrowing storm. And now is no time to discount the dangers that still exist. But opening your mind to optimism can help you seize the opportunities ahead.”

He continues, “There has been considerable scaling down in personnel, with departments in a frenzy to get expenses more under control as sales revenues decline in light of the lack of receivables financing and general consumer malaise about discretionary spending.”

“This has been an efficacious process for many and has staved off more disastrous results. But,” he says, “I am not sure how many companies have a Recovery Plan in place or even in mind to reset the clock organizationally when the economy finally does turn around. This would include assessing the restart of formerly effective marketing and sales programs that are now relegated primarily to owner referrals and in-house.”

4. Bring in an Objective Experienced Outside Team for Fresh Ideas
Could you and your executive team benefit from a new vision or approach to surmount the challenges you face? Given the millions, or tens of millions of dollars at stake, you may gain by having a talented group of outsiders take a look and give you what may be extremely valuable input.

These same points are relevant to others, such as lenders or banks, with a substantial stake in a project. Sometimes, those who are too close to a given situation may be overly tied in emotionally, or obsess over details and not see options that others may envision.

5. Schedule a “Recovery Plan Work Session Program”
In that regard, creating a team with broad experience is the approach GRI’s two principals, Sweeney and Chairman/CEO Jim Beckham, RRP, have followed. To help challenged properties weather the current storms and prepare for better days ahead, they have linked resources with resort market research leader, Dr. Richard Ragatz, RRP, Ragatz Associates, Inc. (RAI), Eugene, Oregon (www.ragatzassociates.com), to build a team that has set up a Recovery Plan Work Session Program.

This is a one-day, confidential assessment of where a developer is now organizationally. It spells out what actions should be considered to survive and even move along a path to profitable recovery.

The three principals are well equipped to make this productive for resort developers and marketers. With more than 100 years of experience among them, they have a full range of capabilities in all aspects of resort real estate, including each form of vacation ownership, mixed use, condos, and more. In addition, between the two firms, they have had key responsibilities on over 3,000 projects in a total of 48 states and 70 other countries.

They are prepared to help a developer create a recovery plan, even considering elements of . If the company already has such a plan, they could assess it to help prevent the launch of a failed one, or make it more viable. By working with a team such as this, dealings with current or prospective investors or lenders are likely to be more fruitful.

This approach is designed specifically to serve developers and those funding them. With apt modifications, it could be helpful to any business in the resort industry that wishes to survive and thrive these challenging times.

To learn more: contact John Sweeney
( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

6. Tempt Vacationers to Savor Their Own Personal Recovery Time
This is what ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, is recommending based on the latest research. A recent release summed this approach up as follows:

Your Prescription for Good Health:
Take Two Weeks & Call Me in the Morning
According to Research,
Recovery Needed for Vacation-Deprived Americans

ARDA recommends a three-part recovery regimen:

* The U.S. as a nation needs to promote wellness by taking more breaks to help physical and mental health
* Follow research demonstrating that long-term benefits associated with taking regular vacations contribute to better health, relationships and job performance.
* Make your vacation the best experience you can have by partaking of the various quality accommodations and amenities at ARDA member vacation ownership resorts

7. Seize the Day and Your Moments of Truth
Nigel Lobo, Vice President of Resort Operations, Grand Pacific Resorts (“GPR”), Carlsbad, California, cites the lessons that every business – vacation ownership or not – can learn from Jan Carlzon’s book, Moments of Truth.

Carlzon said a business has moment of truth “anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, [and it] is an opportunity to form an impression.” He then pointed out that the first 15 seconds that a customers spends with a company representatives set the tone for company in the customer’s mind.

With this as his foundation, Lobo says Carlzon began in 1986 to turn around his then failing airline, Scandinavian (SAS), and made it one of the world’s most respected carriers. Lobo says Carlzon’s moments of truth included every major contact point from making a reservation and arrival at the airport, to your greeting at the gate and on the plane, to your handling at your final destination.

With his extensive hospitality experience before being recruited to join GPR, Lobo has applied this same sterling principle to his work with Grand Pacific’s 45,000 owners and hundreds of associates. He says, “This gives us over 4.5 million moments of truth – opportunities to consistently showcase our service culture and Star Treatment to each owner and guest!”

He notes, “Every interaction with our customers counts, because it impacts the customer’s perception about the specific resort (GPR now has 14) and the company. Every moment of truth, even the smallest ones, is part of your customer’s total experience and level of satisfaction.”

8. Consistently Create Moments of Magic
Lobo points out, “You should constantly look for opportunities to serve your guests. All levels of moments of truth, from the smallest to the major ones, combine in your customer’s mind in their assessment of their overall satisfaction.”

As to different types of moments, he says, “Jan Carlzon put them into three categories: good – moments of magic, bad – moments of misery, and average.”

In training his staff, Lobo says, “Our goal should be to consistently create all moments of magic, even if they start out as moments of misery.”

What if a moment of misery is because a customer has a legitimate complaint, such as check-in taking too long? Or, a guest is just having a bad day from delayed flights, lost luggage, or a cranky child?

Whether or not your resort is the reason for the complaint, “You need to fix problems and complaints. But you also need to give your guests reasons to return and do business with you again and again, and maybe even refer or bring along their friends.”

9. Set High Standards
To raise performance, Lobo says GPR sets standards higher than RCI mandates for its Gold Crown Resorts.

10. Share Best Practices Throughout Your Company
This is done both within resorts and, through monthly conferences, having each “resort general manager share what’s going well and making a positive impact on their service culture and owners.” They follow similar procedures with front office managers, activity leaders, engineers, and executive housekeepers at their resorts.

Lobo says he participates in the various conference calls, making clear it is for the benefit of each caller, to “share best practices. If you’re struggling with something, put it out there to get ideas from your colleagues. That’s how we all become stronger.”

11. Do Unit Maintenance Quarterly, Not Annually
When an owner checks out early, GPR uses their “Court Green” program to do preventive maintenance. That “keeps the unit looking the way it should at all times.”

Lobo and his team are even willing to expand the zone of GPR magic to more resorts in the Western and Southwestern U.S. If your resort is in that region and could benefit from lower delinquencies (they’ve lowered theirs sharply by focusing on the vacation value), higher satisfaction, and more, you may want to contact him at (760) 707-6933.

12. Where Do I Sign? Three Suggestions for Improving Your Sales Success

Be deliberate. Use deliberate words and messages—business stories—that you share verbally, in print and online. Unlike personal stories, all business stories have a specific message to convey.

Here are three business storytelling suggestions to improve your sales success.

1. Develop and follow a consistent messaging process. We all have a sales process. Few have a deliberate messaging process of what business stories you share in each respective sales step. With a structured messaging approach, you can measure success at any point to determine what stories are working well and what stories need tweaking.
2. Conduct a story inventory. Identify your current business stories and identify where they best fit in your sales process. Examples include personal stories of past vacationers/time share owners; upcoming or ongoing renovations; and interesting information about local culture. Get your prospects to feel like they are already enjoying your property and a part of your “resort family.”
3. Fill in your story gaps. As you look at your inventory, identify what stories you need across your sales process. Do you need a story for people coming from a certain country or region? One for those who enjoy a particular activity, such as swimming, tennis, hiking or family get-togethers? One customized for those that love antiquing, looking for shells on a local beach, or any unique feature of your area? Or a success story for families that prefer pool and beach activities?

With your messaging process and story inventory, you now have new tools to add to your sales toolbox. Used well, they will help increase your sales.

Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a firm with 23 years of experience that turns your business stories into results with keynotes, seminars and consulting. From your Mission Statement or Elevator Speech to your presentations, website, and everything in between, Ira develops and implements high-impact business storytelling and strategic messaging programs. Contact Ira at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit www.TheChiefStoryteller.com.

13. Use Telework Strategically
When a transmissible epidemic or pandemic – such as the swine flu threatens, it makes perfect sense for organizations to keep their ill employees apart from others. To keep sick employees from coming in to the office sending them home or having them work from is usually the most logical decision.

For employers who have already trained and equipped their people to work from home – doing “telework” – the consequences of the health threat to their business recovery are totally minimized. Employees say that working at home eliminates stress and better allows them to concentrate on meeting the needs of the customers who call them.

Companies such as HP and Sun Systems are very strong on telework. An article in the September Harvard Business Review, “Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation,” points out that telework “leads to reductions in travel time, travel costs, and energy use.” At AT&T, telecommuting produces an estimated $550 million in annual savings, together with higher job satisfaction and 10-20% better productivity. These companies have resolved the technical requirements for this type of work setting and method.

Another major issue to the spreading of telework is managers’ objections. At a Sept 2, 2009 conference on telework, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who calls himself the strongest proponent of telework in the US Congress, said that if they could resolve the issue of managers’ objections, it would be possible to have twice as many people telework.

But solutions are already being proposed for this issue. Dr. Jean-François Orsini, through his company, www.Pin-Stripe.com, offers training that helps managers acquire a sense of ownership of their company’s telework program. Dr. Orsini’s training with a course used by companies of all sizes, including Fortune 500s, helps people in various locations collaborate more effectively and efficiently as a team. In any economy, but particularly a challenging one, more effective teamwork – through telework and other avenues – is more important than ever.

Contact: Dr. Orsini, who has his PhD and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Article Summary:  If you are looking to expand your business, the question is not, “are you using LinkedIn?” Rather, the question is “are you using LinkedIn effectively?” To maximize the power of LinkedIn, you have to leverage “people bridges.” With LinkedIn, you can expand your network both passively (e.g., through a compelling profile and receiving invitations) and actively (e.g., writing articles and sending invitations). The power lay within the network—how you find connections and how they find you. There are over 20 tweaks and little known ways of expanding your LinkedIn network. Here are three important ones.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

It’s Who Knows You: Three Little Known Ways to Turn LinkedIn into a More Valuable Sales Tool

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
July 2009

If you are looking to expand your business, the question is not, “are you using LinkedIn?” Rather, the question is “are you using LinkedIn effectively?”

To maximize the power of LinkedIn, you have to leverage “people bridges.” People bridges are the professionals in your network that introduce you to his or her respective network (second-degree relationships). Then you continue to expand your network with the professionals in the second-degree person’s relationship network (three degrees away). In the end, you are looking to make these second- and third-degree relationships your own first-degree relationships. It is just like the 1970s Fabergé shampoo commercial where the spokesperson says: “I told two friends about Fabergé organic shampoo and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.” In this case, the shampoo is your profile.

With LinkedIn, you can expand your network both passively (e.g., through a compelling profile and receiving invitations) and actively (e.g., writing articles and sending invitations). The power lay within the network—how you find connections and how they find you. There are over 20 tweaks and little known ways of expanding your LinkedIn network. Here are three important ones.

Standout with a Compelling Headline
The common attribute of the 41 million LinkedIn profiles is that the first thing you see is a person’s name. The irony is that to second-degree connections and beyond, your name in and of itself, offers little to no value.

To the untrained eye, current job title and company name come next. In an informal study, I looked at 300 profiles and found that 97% of them listed something like CEO, CFO, Consultant, Director, Analyst, etc. Instead of looking like everyone else, grab the reader’s attention! Make a first impression that screams, “Read me now.” How? Use the Professional Headline field. The secret here is that LinkedIn populates it with job title and company name. As such, few people change it.

Click then [Edit] beside your name. Find Professional “Headline.” A compelling headline is the foundation of business storytelling. Headlines make the complex simple while whetting the mental appetite of the reader. You have 120 characters or about 10 words. Try using your tagline or words from a successful advertising campaign. Examples include “Building Business Relationships,” “Online Brand Coaches,” and “Speaker about Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization.”

Recently, an email greeted me: “I got to your link through Person ABC and sure enough your tag line, Chief Storyteller, caught my attention. I work for XYZ on a superb project. I think we don't always do a great job of getting our message out or placed. Would love to talk to you about your work and our situation.” We had coffee and today they are an active client.

Connect to Your Content
Take advantage of new eyeballs visiting your profile. View your profile as part information and part advertisement. Together, they should clearly demonstrate the benefits of your products and services. Greet visitors with a content-rich profile that brings you and your organization to life. Show him or her that you are a recognized expert with the great content you have written and presented. Several LinkedIn applications let you show off your expertise. Examples include Blog Link that shows your last three entries and Slideshare that shows presentations you select.

Click in the top left. Now locate “Featured Applications on LinkedIn” on the right. Click “Learn more about LinkedIn applications” just below the applications box. Eight application descriptions and an overview video appear. Read the descriptions and see what works for your organization. Setup is easy.

Instantly Expand with Groups
Do you know how to increase your reach by a factor 10 to 100? Join groups! There are seven categories such as alumni, corporate, and professional. Join groups that your prospective partners, clients, and industry leaders join. You can also join personal and educational groups such as alumni associations, sailing, and photography.

Since the members are mostly two degrees away, be deliberate in how you connect. Passively, write interesting articles with the expectation that people will contact you. Actively, initiate discussions or send invitations. With your invitation, it is especially important to personalize your request and explain how connecting benefits the person.

Not sure what groups to join? Look at the profiles of everyone in your network and review their group list. Or search the database with keywords to locate groups right for you. Find the link on the top left directly below .

The Magic is in Turning Second-Degree Connections into First-Degree Relationships
Just like live networking, online networking takes patience and perseverance. To expand your LinkedIn network, online networking must be an active part of your schedule. Passively, you are offering content with engaging blog entries, educational presentations, and a compelling profile. Actively, you are requesting introductions, adding professionals to your network, and elevating your status as an expert in your field by answering questions and submitting articles.

Is your LinkedIn network expanding? Are existing connections introducing you to people bridges, prospective partners, clients, opinion leaders, staff, and consultants? Used well, LinkedIn will become a valuable tool in your sales and marketing toolbox.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Has this ever happened to you? You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker (let’s call her Susan) at BestClient Corporation. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with Susan based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Then (cue the playing of scary music) a reorganization occurs. Susan departs. BestClient STILL needs you. With Robbie now running the department, what are you going to do? Four key steps are outlined in
this two-part series. Together, following the steps will help you keep your clients forever.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Keep Your Top Clients Forever: Ensure Long-Term Retention with Internal Champions (Part 2)

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
June 2009

Here is a brief summary of the scenario presented in part one. You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker, Susan, at BestClient Corporation. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with her based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Suddenly, Susan departs after a company or departmental reorganization.

At any time, you may find your relationship in jeopardy because of such significant events. Additional examples include promotions, change of management, acquisitions, and retirements.
Key person

To minimize your downside risks from significant events, last month’s article recommended the initial two steps of four step process. Step 1 is Identify Your Target Organizations. Step 2 is Identify Key Persons. Key Persons are individuals in your client’s organization with whom you have a very strong relationship AND where each person has significant status. Significant status includes decision makers, major influencers, and thought leaders. The “AND” here is very important, as each key person must be in a decision-making position.

Examples of Key Persons include members of the C-suite such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Examples of non-C-suite Key Persons include vice president of public relations and manager of software development.

Step 3. Expand by Eight
From Part 1, you developed a list of your top clients ranked according to the highest risk of losing business. Let’s now identify your future internal champions.

Take out a blank piece of paper and draw the diagram shown here.

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Write their respective names next to numbers one through four. The circles and arrows in the diagram are guides to help you identify bosses and team members. You do not have to follow the up/down or right/left conventions if they do not fit your situation. The important point to remember is that the inner circle simply represents the first-degree connections to your Key Person—the most important ones. If you need some guidance, make Person 1 the direct supervisor and Person 2 your Key Person’s direct subordinate. Then identify two of your Key Person’s peers as Persons 3 and 4. If you do not know a person’s name, use a job title as a placeholder.

After writing down the first four names, complete the exercise for Persons 5 through 8. The outer circle represents those one step away from the inner circle. These professionals represent the second most important set of relationships that complement your Key Person and those that complement Persons 1 through 4.

With the eight names, you can now develop a plan to expand your internal network in your top client’s organization.

Step 4. Build Internal Champions
To grow your internal network requires building internal champions within your client organizations. This task requires patient deliberateness. This is more than just simple networking. These internal champions are the ones that sign your contracts, advocate on your behalf when it comes time for contract renewal, lobby to continue working with you when a competitor is knocking on the door, and so on. These are the people that “have your back.”

Make specific choices of how and where you spend your time. The eight names you just identified are now part of your Target Relationship Plan. Each of your top clients should have its own plan.
In your plan, identify specific activities you are going to pursue to build and maintain relationships with respect to each of the eight new internal champions. I call these Moments of Impact or MOIs. MOIs can be by telephone, by email, in writing, and in person.

Generally, MOIs fall into two categories: simple to do and take time to do. Examples of Simple: a) Email a suggestion for an article, blog, book, magazine, conference, restaurant, movie, or sporting event; b) Send a card for a birthday, anniversary, or as a thank you; and c) Make referrals to other businesses to solve business challenges outside your expertise. Examples of Take Time: a) Meet for coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks; b) Send a gift that is small, personalized, and unexpected; and c) Assume a leadership role on an association committee. Email me for a list of more than 60 MOIs.

A few thousand years ago, Menandros Chiaramonti, a famous Greek dramatist, said that, “The character of a man is known from his conversations.” Extend this to everything that you do with and for your clients beyond the actual contracted work. Think of these relationships as if you were building friendships. In this case, you are making business friends—for life.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Has this ever happened to you? You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker (let’s call her Susan) at BestClient Corporation. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with Susan based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Then (cue the playing of scary music) a reorganization occurs. Susan departs. BestClient STILL needs you. With Robbie now running the department, what are you going to do? Four key steps are outlined in this two-part series. Together, following the steps will help you keep your clients forever.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Keep Your Top Clients Forever: Ensure Long-Term Retention with Internal Champions (Part 1)

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
May 2009

Has this ever happened to you?

You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker (let’s call her Susan) at BestClient Corporation. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with Susan based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Then (cue the playing of scary music) a reorganization occurs. Susan departs. BestClient STILL needs you. With Robbie now running the department, what are you going to do? What are the chances of building a relationship with Robbie like the one you had with Susan? Most importantly, will Robbie readily sign your contract for the coming year?

Significant events outside your control may occur at client organizations any time. Examples include promotions, change of management, reassignments, mergers, acquisitions, retirements, and departures for a new job. Should a “significant event” occur to your key contact, your business relationship with that organization or department may be in jeopardy. At the very least, you must devote additional effort to build up the relationship to compare to the one you enjoyed with Susan.

A deliberate relationship building plan within your client’s organization minimizes and can mitigate negative consequences from significant changes. Your success to long-term retention lies in building multiple internal champions who complement your relationship with your key person.

In this two-part series, we will cover steps one and two below. Next month’s article describes steps three and four. Together, following the four steps will help you keep your clients forever.

Step 1: Identify Your Target Organizations
If you are like many in thousands of organizations today, you more often than not use intuition to evaluate and rank your best clients. And if you use any objective ranking criteria, it is likely revenue. Instead, maintain a Top Client Profile (TCP). A TCP ranks your clients according to criteria important to your ongoing success. Example criteria include value of referrals, value of testimonials, annual revenue, if they beta test your software, and lifetime client value (LCV).

Together, let’s walk through the process to create your own TCP. If you have never ranked your clients, spreadsheet software makes this process easy. Here are seven step-by-step instructions.

1. Identify five ranking criteria. Annual revenue or LCV are examples. 
2. Label the spreadsheet columns as follows: A as Organization Name, B through F with the five criteria identified in Step 1, G as Criteria Total, and H as Priority.
3. Populate the Organization Name column with the names of your clients. 
4. Input your ratings for each of the five criteria for each client using a 10-point scale with 10 as the highest score. In general, focus your evaluations on the recent years.
5. Sum the values in columns B through F into the Criteria Total for each client. Then sort the table by Criteria Total, from highest to lowest.
6. Divide the sorted client list into three segments. Each segment should represent a third of your clients. 
7. Classify the top segment as “1” under Priority, the second segment as “2,” and the bottom segment as “3.”

You now have a ranked listing of your clients. As you do more and more client modeling, refine, change, and add to your criteria and segments.

Step 2: Identify Key Persons
Let’s concentrate on just the first third, the “Priority” group with a rating of “1,” and call them your top clients. Within your spreadsheet, add a heading of Key Persons to Column I. In this column, enter the number of people in your client’s organization with whom you have a very strong relationship AND where each person has significant status. Significant status includes decision makers, major influencers, and thought leaders. The “AND” here is very important, as each key person must be in some type of decision-making position.

Examples of key persons include members of the C-suite such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO). Examples of non C-suite key persons include plant manager, director of security, vice president of public relations, manager of software development, and quality assurance director.

Sort the top client segment (the Priority group with a rating of “1”) based on the value in the Key Person column, from lowest to highest. The first organization listed is your top client with the fewest key person relationships. This is the organization with the greatest downside risk.

Abracadabra (well, sort of), you have ranked your top clients according to a simplified client risk analysis. Within the spreadsheet, you can add as many criteria and segments as you would like. Then perform advanced analysis to refine the list if you wish.

This ends part one. In part two, we will cover Step 3, identifying new key persons to build relationships with over time and Step 4, developing your own plan to turn these new key persons into internal champions. Together, implementing these four steps will ensure your long-term retention with your top clients, no matter what personal, professional, and organizational changes may occur.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Generally, a networking event is one big blind date. You never know who you will meet next. Networking is all about the deliberate development of professional relationships. Just as with personal dating, business dating takes time. You wouldn’t expect to get married on the first date. The same holds true with networking. Here are five sure-fire steps to make your networking more focused and effective to capitalize on opportunities, eliminate distractions, and increase your sales and development success.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Networking as a Sales Tool: 5 Sure-Fire Steps to Increase Sales Success

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
April 2009

In 2002, I started my business and started networking like never before. Attending some 20 events per week quickly became exhausting. After analyzing the events versus success, the clear trend was that I went to too many of the wrong events. Together with the preparation, follow up, and meetings I was draining energy from the prospects and events that mattered. Obvious right? It took a lot of frustration to make me realize that my lack of success was due to my random and unstructured approach to networking.

I retooled my approach and developed a deliberate process. That meant being patient and most important, being deliberate. Networking is all about the deliberate development of professional relationships. Just as with personal dating, business dating takes time. You wouldn’t expect to get married on the first date. The same holds true with networking. Expect to get a signed contract only after the appropriate time has been spent building trust, sharing experiences, and demonstrating capability.

Benjamin Franklin’s said it best, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Here are five sure-fire steps to make your networking more focused and effective to capitalize on opportunities, eliminate distractions, and increase your sales success.

1. Develop an Ideal Client Profile
Successful networkers know their target audiences. During my travels, I ask workshop participants and clients, “do you have an ideal client profile?” It no longer surprises me when most people respond “no.” An Ideal Client Profile (ICP) spells out the specific characteristics of a prospect that would most likely buy from you. A short list of examples include: professional services, $15 to $50MM revenue, >250 employees, in business at least five years, located in north east, and in the financial sector.

Marketing should have a standard ICP that spells out each of the characteristics important to your organization. This way, the sales team pursues only qualified leads.

2. Develop Your Networking Event Plan
Now ask yourself, where do the key decision makers at these ICP organizations network? What associations and social clubs are they members of? Search the Internet or ask colleagues to locate events that will help you to meet them. Look for opportunities throughout the week, from 7 am to 7 pm. Overall, breakfast and dinner events yield the best results.

3. Use a Compelling Business Story
You have arrived at your event ready to meet your ICPs. Since you only have a few minutes to make a first and lasting impression, you need to make the most of your time. Be prepared to answer “what do you do?” with a compelling answer that screams, “Wow! Tell me more.”  Your answer is a high-level, executive summary of your core business story. Commonly referred to as your elevator speech, it should take you 30 seconds or less to say. An elevator speech is in a way a litmus test. Told well, it engages people prompting a good conversation. If it is not engaging or interesting, people tend to transition away from you fairly quickly.

4. Circulate and Locate
Generally, a networking event is one big blind date. You never know who you will meet next. He/she could be your next best friend, next best client, next best partner, or not. 

Stop listening to your mother. Talk to strangers! Heed Stephen Covey’s habit number five: “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Circulate through the room starting conversations that your ICPs will be interested in. Read the magazines, websites, blogs, newsletters, and books that they read. Within the first few minutes of meeting someone, qualify that person as an ICP, ideal business partner, business friend, or other. Based on your assessment, deliberately choose how you will direct the conversation, how to follow up, and how to politely exit.

Transition to a new person every five to 10 minutes. You are looking to locate people that you can help and those that can help you. The object here is to be deliberate with your conversations and patient with the results.

5. Evaluate Your Return on Networking
Many people comment that networking is neither rewarding nor fun. It can be both if you consistently evaluate, measure your results, and respond appropriately.

Experience shows that you should spend four to six months attending events and meeting people before you will realize any substantial results. As you network, evaluate your success. Didn’t meet the people you wanted to? Think of different or complementary venues to attend. Perhaps you did not make any meaningful connections? As yourself, is my story resonating with people? Is the event filled with prospective ICPs? Over the course of time, decide what, how, and if you need to change your approach to networking.

Conclusion
“Work smarter, not harder” always resonated with me because it helped me focus on priority activities. It simply was not a matter of putting in long hours to show results. The true test lay in the results.

This is what being a deliberate networker is all about: making the most of your time. It is deciding who you need to meet and cultivate to increase your business success. And sticking to your plan. It is hard work cultivating a promising contact over time as is allocating your time at events. It will pay off. If you stick with networking event plan, your evaluations will show more success and you will find yourself having more fun.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary: With the constant daily bombardment of advertising messages, your words have to grab your reader’s attention and get him or her to act. With email, words are everything. Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Here are five suggestions to improve your emails across your entire sales and communication processes.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Note: This is the first in a series of articles. Part 2 is Special Delivery:  How to Write Emails Your Audience Will Open and Act Upon.

 

Avoid Foot in Mouse Syndrome: Writing Emails that Generate More Sales (Part 1)

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
March 2009

When I commute, I pay attention to commercials. I particularly look at and listen for word selection and word order. Whether on a billboard, a radio commercial, or a magazine ad, advertisers vie for our attention. We face the same challenge with our emails.

The reality is that we can not read every email upon receipt. How then do we get the recipient to say, “I need to read this email now?” A properly worded sales email provides enticing information that generates immediate action.

This article is about improving your emails across the entire sales process. What you say depends upon a variety of factors such as urgency, deadline, and pain points. As such, use the suggestions below as they apply appropriately to each phase in your sales process.

Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” With email, words are everything. Here are five suggestions for sending emails that generate more sales.

1. Personalize Your Message
I receive “Dear Ms. Koretsky” and “To Whom It May Concern” emails too often. Without fail, they are templates and they get deleted. Now imagine looking at the thousands of emails you received last year. You would discover that most of the first-time sales emails you received are “one size fits all.”

Stephen Covey’s habit number five says it best, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Instead conduct some research to show your level of commitment to building a relationship. So whether the research is a little or a lot, ensure that your email clearly demonstrates how your product or service is helping the prospective company without it reading like a template.

2. Keep it Smart Device-Friendly
If you are like most smart phone users, you skip the long emails and promise yourself that you will read them later. Unless it is really important, that email goes to the bottom of the queue. Be realistic. What do you think happens to long sales emails, especially from an unknown or little known sender? I challenge even the best graduates from the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Course to read every email.

As such, write emails as if they will be read on a smart device. Smart device-friendly email is less than 100 words and takes 15 to 30 seconds to read. Need to send a lengthy email? Break it into two-parts. The first part should be PDA-friendly, summarizing your key points. The second part offers the details and goes below your signature line. For example, I write in proposal emails, “Find below the signature, the detailed version of the proposal.”

3. Write like a Copywriter
Many sales emails are heavy on features and light on benefits. Often, these scarce benefits are hidden in the text, akin to buried treasure. Instead of making the reader become a pirate in search of your buried treasure, write your emails like a copywriter. Great ads have one common element—a compelling headline. The analogous email element is the subject line.

You want your subject line to scream, “Read Me!” It is a short space, so grab the heart first, then the brain. Make your headlines personal and offer a benefit. Prove to the reader that it will be worth their time. Keep your headlines between seven and 10 words.

Many people scan emails. So make the selling points impossible to miss like billboards on a trip through your email. Bulleted statements are a great way to highlight key areas.

4. Include a Clear Call-to-Action
Every email should move the prospect forward in your sales cycle. It is, therefore, critical to have a call-to-action in every email. Be obvious and specific with your request. Put it on its own line with a specific date and time. If you would like the prospect to act, an example might be “Please forward your comments on the pricing to me by 5 p.m. on Friday.” If you are the one completing an action, an example might be “I will follow up with you on Thursday next week to get your thoughts.”

5. Measure Twice, Cut Once
When I was a child, some of our family gatherings centered on construction projects for our relatives—patios, porches, you name it. As the children got older, we were put to work. While working, the adults shared lessons with us. Uncle Mike taught us the importance of measuring before cutting. “Once you cut, you can’t go back,” he would say.

Let’s take Uncle Mike’s advice to sales. It is critical for you to measure the success of your emails. Identify what is working well and what is not. Subsequently tweak or revise your messages to ensure that you are generating the results you want.

Ask yourself key measurement questions such as: Are the emails helping to move my prospect along our sales process? What messages are triggering positive responses? Are they asking the kind of questions I would expect?

With the constant daily bombardment of advertising messages, your words have to grab your reader’s attention and get him or her to act. It is easy and quick for us to use standard template language. Be different. Set yourself apart with personalized messages that are simple and obvious. Heed Benjamin Franklin’s advice of “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Use email as an effective sales tool and it will help grow your business.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Your answer to "What Do You Do?" commonly referred to as your elevator speech or elevator pitch, is one of the most important tools in your communication toolbox. Why? Because if delivered right, it will get people to say, “I need that!” Consumer product companies have spent billions of dollars connecting to our hearts and wallets, to move us to buy their products. They have learned that brevity is better. Three proven steps are discussed to help you develop and deliver your own elevator speech that gets people to say “I need you!”

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

The “What Do You Do?” Answer: A Key Tool in Your Sales Toolbox

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
February 2009

Imagine that you are at a Saturday barbeque. You know only the host. Everyone is dressed casually. A person walks up to you, smiles, and says, "Hello, what do you do?" How would you reply?

Your reply, commonly referred to as your elevator speech, is one of the most important tools in your sales toolbox. Why? Because if delivered right, it will get people to say, “I need that!”

Consumer product companies have spent billions of dollars connecting to our hearts and wallets, to move us to buy their products. They have learned that brevity is better. How long is a typical radio or television advertisement? 15 to 30 seconds. How many words are in a headline of a newspaper or magazine article? Five to seven.

Think of your elevator speech as your advertisement. It should be less than 100 words and take fewer than 30 seconds to say. Here are three proven steps to help you develop and deliver your own “I need that!” business story— a business story that will help you grow your revenue.

Step 1:  Develop an Engaging Opening Statement
In a typical print advertisement or article, the headline is what draws you in. Headlines grab your attention by arousing your curiosity with the juiciest parts of the story. As such, when you respond to “What do you do?” or “Tell me about your business,” start off with an engaging opening statement—your headline.

During my last workshop series with the Environment Protection Agency, the room was filled with scientists and researchers, many of whom have PhDs. Given their technical training, the first round of elevator speeches, as you might expect, was long and full of jargon. I then oriented their mindset and thought process to their audience, the American people. I reminded them that the average American is not a PhD. Through a variety of collaborative exercises and tools, they developed compelling and engaging opening statements, like Jessica’s—“We help you breathe better.”

When I share this example, some individuals say something like, “for the EPA, that’s obvious.” And my reply is always, “Then why are so few opening statements this short and engaging?” The response? Silence.

Indeed, if the development of a great opening statement to your elevator speech were easy, everyone would have one. Here are some suggestions to start you on the path to develop your own. First, keep it between three and seven words. Next, use active verbs. Lastly, follow these formats to start your opening statement: We are blank, We verb blank, We help blank, and We make blank. Here are a few examples: (a) We are customer detectives, Enfatico Consulting; (b) We mold water into excitement, The Water Works, Inc.; and (c) We are champions of healthy living, American Diabetes Association® (ADA).

Conduct several brainstorming sessions with your management and marketing teams. Put on your copywriting hats and generate at least 100 headlines using different nouns, verbs, and benefits. Whittle down the list to your top five. Solicit feedback from trusted colleagues, partners, employees, and clients. When ready, select the one that best represents your company, culture, and benefits to your clients.

Step 2:  Explain the Opening Statement
After getting your audience interested with your opening statement, offer additional details. The details describe what you do while sharing some of the benefits of working with your company. Keep your explanation to between one to three sentences. [this sounds awkward – “to between one”

Here is the ADA version: “We help over 60 million Americans affected with diabetes, pre-diabetes and weight problems. Year-round, continuous programs are offered to every community in the United States – programs that make a real difference in people’s lives – community programs for awareness, education, fitness, and wellness.”

Step 3:  Add a Customized Success Story
Now that you have an engaging opening statement complemented by intriguing details, add a customized success story. A customized success story lets your prospects and clients know that you are listening, that you are interested in them, and that you can meet their expectations.

Most people use the same success stories for every prospecting meeting. Instead, develop a business story inventory so that you can use the right story, for the right occasion, for the right prospect. Within your inventory, include a wide variety of business stories that match up to your ideal client profile situations. For example, if your target prospects are high tech firms with revenues of $5 to $50 MM, develop success stories for firms with $5 to $10MM, $11 to $20MM, and so on. Limit your success story to two sentences. Remember to keep your elevator speech to less than 100 words.

Test and tweak your elevator speech over time. Let it evolve. Try two versions at a networking event and see which one prompts more questions and better engages the people you meet. Be patient—it normally takes at least three months to craft an elevator speech that most people will like—and often as much as six months. So, continue to test and refine and you too will have an “I need that!” elevator speech that accelerates your sales process.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword." With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships. And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions. Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

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Great Leaders Know How to Put their Words to Work

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 12, 2008

Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword."

With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships.

And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions.

Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

They stand out because of how each treated me. They were great listeners, gently offered advice, supported me, appreciated what I did and showed it. They were leaders, mentors and coaches.

Why did they make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us, and the stories we share about these experiences help shape the world around us.

We live through each other’s stories. Told right, business stories can have the same impact as personal stories.

Business stories are memorable, powerful packages that simplify messages. They are the engine of relationships, and relationships are the engine of business growth.

As a leader, it is crucial to tell the right stories and ensure the right ones are being told about you. Great leaders share their vision, knowledge and wisdom through stories.

The best stories have several key characteristics: They are simple, are easily understood, have immediate resonance, are delivered passionately and have a positive outcome or learning experience. Great leaders are great storytellers.

Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting or before thousands at a shareholders’ meeting, use stories to be a better leader.

First, know your audience as well as yourself. Your mantra should be, “It’s all about them.”

The story that plays well with longtime colleagues may not resonate with a potential client. The stories that impressed the group of visiting Asian chief executive officers may fall flat in Chicago. Understanding the audience makes the difference in building the relationship and closing that deal.

During some of my keynote speeches and workshops, I use an exercise called, “What is the Half-Life of Your Story?” It prompts participants to realize the power of words.

Here is an example of the exercise, which can be tailored to suit your group. First, read each of these phrases slowly: recent personal performance review, last big project, most difficult boss and best boss. Then, reread each phrase. What do you immediately think of? A person, a place, event, experience or emotion? Do the experiences that these words conjure up make you grimace or smile?

Great leaders reveal personal experiences relevant to their audience, and the goal of this exercise is to tap into your passion. Sharing stories with passion grabs and keep your audience’s attention.

Nowhere is it truer than in business that "we don’t pay attention to boring things," says John Medina, author of "Brain Rules."

Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. The words you choose and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective.

Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood — or misunderstood — in a number of ways. For example, the expression "You are crazy," can be playful, argumentative or even condescending.

People constantly look to leaders for guidance and advice. Remember it is all about them — your audience.

So, as a leader, what stories are you telling? Does your audience find them inspiring and positive? Are you evaluating their strong points and addressing their weak points? Are your stories generating the results you want?

If not, revise and practice the delivery, impact, timing, opening and closing.

Years ago, contracts were made by a smile and a handshake. The simple phrase "you have my word" meant something. Doing business is not so simple today, especially in light of a global economy with diverse cultures, backgrounds and languages.

Whether you own a two-person small business or are CEO of a Fortune 500 company, your words and stories matter to those around you. I believe words and stories have a very long half-life, perhaps hundreds of years depending upon what you say and where you say it (such as books, articles and blogs).

As you build your teams and your business, be deliberate with the stories you tell. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: "I have no use for engines. Give me the right word … and I will move the world."

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

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