Coming to you from London Englad today, where it’s cool and cloudy.
In my search for interesting, relevant material for this career advice blog, I subscribe to a lot of blogs, ezines and article sites. I don’t often read all of the information that comes my way. This is not the case with Bob Bly. Bob is, in my opinion, the world’s greatest copywriter. His direct response ezine always has great information on writing and marketing.
The other day I received an email from Bob. I thought that the ideas in it were so powerful that I asked him if I could share them on this career advice blog. He graciously agreed. Check out what Bob has to say about relationship building, a key component of life and career success…
Dear Direct Response Letter Subscriber,
When I tell you this story, you may think it makes me look like a jerk. But it conveys an important lesson for every entrepreneur and marketing professional.
And the lesson is this: to communicate effectively, it’s incumbent upon
YOU to really understand the other person – what they think, what they want, what’s important to them – and NOT the other way around.
Okay. So here’s what happened….
A person I don’t know called me at work out of the blue the other day – while I was frantically writing to meet a deadline.
“I am reading your book,” he said, naming one of my books. “There is a typo on page 383,” he said triumphantly, as if dropping the biggest bombshell since Hiroshima.
“Thanks, but you don’t need to tell me about it,” I said politely.
He stammered, absolutely stunned.
I knew it was not the response he was looking for.
From past calls like this, he expected me to write down the information he was about to give me, and possibly engage me in dialogue … which a lot of book readers want to do with authors.
Instead, I simply thanked him for calling, and ended the call.
I didn’t lecture him on the realities of life, but if I had, here’s what I would have said:
“Sir, I don’t know you, and I am not sure why you feel compelled to take time out of your day, call me up, and report that there is a typo in one of my books – or what kind of satisfaction it gives you.
“But I’ve written almost 80 books, totaling more than 16,000 pages. I am sure there are a number of typos within those 16,000 pages.
“The book you are referring to I wrote more than 20 years ago. It’s already printed, and is not going to be reprinted again. So there’s nothing I can do about the typo you’ve found.
“Also, I have a dozen projects on my desk this week, all with deadlines. To finish this work and run my business, I have about a hundred tasks on my priority list.
“So taking a look at my printed books — and fixing typos in them — wouldn’t even make the list. In fact, it’s not even on my radar as far as ‘important things to do’ is concerned. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s the reality of life.”
As I said at the beginning of this article: you may find my response to my anonymous proofreader offensive. After all, wasn’t he just trying to do me a kindness?
In my experience, that’s possible.
But from two and a half decades of getting such calls as an author, I have found that kindness is often not the primary motivation behind such calls.
Often the caller revels in showing the published writer that he made a mistake. Or he hopes that the author will become a friend or (unpaid) advisor – and that pointing out the typo will open up a relationship in some way.
But the point is this: if you want to communicate with someone effectively … and establish a relationship, whether personal or business … you have to, as the cliché points out, “put yourself in the customer’s shoes” … whether you’re selling a product, service, or idea.
As a marketer, it’s imperative that you understand the CUSTOMER … what he thinks, wants, needs, fears, and desires … what’s important to him – NOT what’s important to you.
In the example of my anonymous proofreader, for example, a better way to establish the contact with me might have been as follows:
“Bob, this is Joe. I’m reading your book and I have one item in it I’d like to briefly discuss with you. It will take less than a minute. Do you have time now?”
This approach, by the way, works beautifully in selling – either when cold calling or following up on inquiries. People are busy today, and they cannot abide it when others don’t respect their time or understand just how pressured they are.
I ALWAYS ask when calling someone I don’t know: “Is this a bad time for you?” If they say yes, I ask when would be a better time to talk.
He could have continued: “I found a typo in the book. Do you want to know about it?”
This is also a good strategy in selling: before launching into your “pitch,” ask the prospect for permission to proceed.
If you want to communicate or establish a relationship with other people, it’s YOUR job to understand them and where they’re coming from … and asking questions is one way to do this.
Tweet 125 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Get to know yourself. Use your self knowledge to better understand others and build mutually beneficial relationships with them.” That’s what Bob is talking about when he says “it’s YOUR job to understand them and where they’re coming from.”
Here’s a real life story…one that happened to me. One of my clients is a big detail guy. I’m a big picture guy. He likes things to be very organized and predictable. I am more comfortable going with the flow.
One day, I arrived at his office in the late afternoon. I was going to facilitate a team building session for his leadership team the next day. He asked me what I planned on doing in our meeting. I explained it to him verbally.
He said, “Do you have an agenda?” I responded that I just told him what I was planning on doing. He said, “I heard you, but I’d like to see the agenda.” I told him I had no written agenda. Being a detail guy, he wasn’t too happy about this. So before we left his office to go to dinner, we spent 15 minutes putting what I told him I planned to do in the meeting on a PowerPoint slide.
There is an important career success lesson here. My client has high needs for structure, and an agenda is a way to structure a meeting. I am very comfortable having a rough idea of what I’m hoping to do and accomplish in a meeting and then going with the energy in the room as the meeting unfolds. This works for me – but not my client.
The career advice here is simple. He’s the client, I have to adapt my preferred style of facilitating a meeting to his needs, or I am unlikely to be successful in building a long term, mutually beneficial relationship with him. It was up to me to recognize our differences and to adapt my behavior to something that will make him comfortable – not the other way around.
The common sense career success coach point here is straightforward. Successful people understand themselves, and use this knowledge to better understand others. They follow the career advice in Tweet 125 in Success Tweets. “Get to know yourself. Use your self knowledge to better understand others and build mutually beneficial relationships with them.” Use your understanding of yourself to compare and contrast your needs and wants with the people around you. Adapt your behavior toother people. This makes it easier to build strong relationships. The next time you run into someone who looks at the world differently from you, see what you can do to adapt your communication style and behavior to his or her style. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll be on your way to building a better, stronger relationship with that person — and your life and career success.
That’s my career advice – and Bob Bly’s for that matter – on building strong relationships by understanding yourself and other people and how you are similar or different from them. What are your thoughts on this? Please share them with us by leaving a comment on this post. And as always, thanks for taking the time to read my musings on life and career success. I really value you and your input.