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Hairdresser CRM September 23, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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I get my hair cut about every six weeks or so.  I’ve been going to the same woman for about two years now.  Every time I show up, she picks up the conversation right where we left off, six weeks prior.  How does she do this?

She sees a hundred or more people in those intervening weeks.  She has similar, if not far more engaging, conversations with all those people than she has with me.  Yet she remembers everything we were talking about and is able to resume a pleasant conversation for thirty minutes or so.  She also remembers how I like my hair cut, and notices subtle changes in how it has grown (or not).

I am pretty sure that my local hair salon is not running Seibel unbeknownst to me.  I do not see the various stylists pulling up salesforce.com on their phones moments before engaging a client.  They don’t even write anything down, for heaven’s sake!  Yet they have an almost elephantine memory for details about their clients’ lives.  And this is not unique to my current stylist; this seems to be typical behavior among the vast majority of hairdressers in the world.

They realize, of course, that this intimacy and sustained attention is what provides them the repeat business they need to survive.  Whether they are born with the skill or develop it over time, successful stylists know how to draw out their clients and remember what they hear.  Darwinian selection weeds out the stylists with poor memories, I suppose.

We could all learn a thing or two from them.  The foundation of good IT service is that old maxim:

People don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care.

Showing that you care means listening and remembering things that are important to your customers.  Dale Carnegie knew it; much of his advice involves understanding what is really important to people and then providing it.

My best vendors have hairdresser-class people skills.  They have taken the time to get to know me and my company, and they prove it every time we get together.  I don’t know how they remember it; I do know that it makes sustaining our relationship across intermittent points of contact much easier.

Bad salespeople could never cut hair.  They don’t take the time to learn things, and don’t try to remember what they do learn.  I’ve had salespeople schedule time for an intro call and admit that they do not even know what my company does.  Really?  You couldn’t spend five minutes with Google before heading to my office?

Social media tools make this even easier for savvy salespeople.  Like many other people, I am throwing out bits of trivia about myself all the time, through this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Facebook.  I have a Google-friendly name that makes web-based stalking easy.  It is not hard to put together a few facts to create the illusion of caring when you first meet me.

Cynical machinations aside, we would all do well to acquire the skills that are crucial to hairdressers.  Listening, remembering, and showing interest are the foundation of all our relationships, not just at the office.  Maybe your next leadership coaching session involves scissors and a smock.

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Happy Labor Day! September 7, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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No great insight today (or any other day, I hear some of you muttering).  Instead, here is a quick to-do list for this Labor Day:

  • Pack up your white shoes.  That’s right; it’s time to put away those white pumps and bucks, saving them for a glorious return next Easter Sunday.  Winter’s almost here, and you’ll need to shift to drab, dark footwear more befitting the season.
  • Think of three great memories of this summer, and share them with someone.  Mine are
    • A wonderful family trip to New York City
    • Seeing my daughter start her freshman year in college
    • Helping my son begin his Boy Scout Eagle Project
  • Go outside and enjoy the last moments of summer
  • Grill something and eat it

Happy Labor Day!  See you on Wednesday!

Partnering For Success September 4, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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I do more than my fair share of beating up vendors for poor sales practices (to whit: regarding honesty, inappropriate emails, and unsolicited appointments).  It is only fair, then, to highlight a really good thing that happened recently with a few of my key vendors.

I like to meet with vendors on a quarterly basis.  We split the meeting in half, discussing everything new in their world, and then everything new in mine.  The idea is to keep everyone up-to-date and see what, if any, opportunities have arisen since our last meeting.  Sometimes actions arise out of the meeting, and sometimes we jsut agree to see each other in three months.  Either way, this method seems to work well in maintaining an appropriate relationship.

Recently, my VAR (Value Added Reseller) threw me a curve ball.  What if, they suggested, we brought three vendors in at once, and had a joint meeting? Each vendor would talk about their areas, of course, but we could also explore overlaps and potential synergies between the vendors as well.

Well.  I had never tried this before, and for the most part, neither had they.  So we decided to give it a try.  The vendors arrived, prepared to present using a pre-determined agenda.  My team attended, anxious to see what they had to say.

It was great! As each vendor got up to speak, we started deep conversations about their technology as it related to the other vendors.  In some cases, we jointly explored how this stuff might all work together.  In others, vendors had to address conflicts and points of competition with respect to their peers.

My team learned a lot more in this one session than we would have from three individual meetings.  I think the vendors got a better feel for how my group assesses technology as a whole, pulling from various vendors to create our solutions.  Best of all, we had substantive conversations that went well beyond traditional vendor presentations.

I applaud the salespeople that agreed to present within this structure.  They went out on a limb to take care of their customer, and we really appreciated it.  It would have been easy to pass on the opportunity, but they stepped up and did something a little out of the ordinary.  I also appreciate the efforts of my VAR who worked to arrange and coordinate the meeting.  That “V” stands for “value,” and they clearly brought it to us that day.

I could write dozens of “bad salesman” posts for this blog. That’s not fair to the many good salespeople out there who never get a mention. This time, I offer a heart-felt “thank you” to all those salespeople who work so hard to creatively serve their customers.  What’s the most creative thing you’ve had a salesperson do for you?  Share it so we can all appreciate what good salespeople do.

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No Public Privacy September 2, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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My town is fairly techno-savvy.  They run a great web site with up-to-date information on just about anything you can imagine.  They also provide real-time email notification of town issues.  Any time there is an emergency road closing, or an impending storm, you get a nice email letting you know.  You also get all the official town press releases, as they are, um, released to the press.

I always thought this was pretty cool, until last week.  That’s when I got an email from the town informing me that the address lists used to drive the email system are considered a public record and are therefore obtainable under the Freedom Of Information Act.  The town wanted me to know that someone had just obtained a copy from the town, and that I should be on the lookout for potential spam as a result.

Isn’t that great?  Spammers need not scrounge addresses on their own, or pay for them from dubious sources.  Instead, they can get them, for free, from every municipal entity in the country that provides information via email.  Somehow, I don’t think this is what was envisioned when the FOIA was passed.

Now citizens have a choice: continue to receive timely (and potentially life-saving) information from your town, or be subject to even more spam from those who get the lists from your town.  Of course, this punishes the most forward-thinking towns who have taken the time to implement these fancy services.  Backwards towns, still distributing information via criers, are not putting their citizens at risk.

I know that I should be running appropriate spam filters (I do) and not open suspicious messages from destitute ex-royalty in Nigeria (I don’t), but not everyone is as techno-hip as I am.  Even worse, you know the spammers will be sending fake messages that look like missives from my town, just to further confuse the recipients.  I know that is somehow illegal, but I’m guessing that most spammers are not following some sort of Spammers Ethical Code to prevent this kind of stuff.

Lots of people fret that private data being held by third parties may someday be retrievable via subpoena, and much is made of how responsible Google and other large firms will be when trying to protect our data.  But I don’t know that many people have worried about what our local town government will do when asked for our data.  Now we know: they turn it over to comply with the law.

I have to believe that certain town-held data (like utility billing data) is confidential.  Or is it?  Could I send a letter to any town in the United States and get their complete billing database, under FOIA?  Forget email.  That kind of data would be a goldmine for all sorts of data mining and marketing insight.

I don’t know where this is headed, but I am not happy about where it is so far.  We need to rethink how data is held by public agencies, and how it can be withheld except under certain very well-defined circumstances.

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I Can’t Recommend This August 28, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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I like LinkedIn.  I’ve used it for many years, well before the term “social media” came into vogue, and value what it does well: keeping me abreast of the career changes within my professional network.  Although the powers-that-be at LinkedIn have added other features over the years, the core value of network awareness hasn’t changed. Many of those new features provide little value, at least to me. And there is one feature that needs to go immediately: recommendations.

In theory, recommendations seem to make a lot of sense.  If you feel strongly about a person to whom you are connected, you can write a recommendation of that person.  The recommendation, once approved by the recipient, is placed on their profile for all the world to see.  LinkedIn thinks this is such a good feature that your profile is not considered complete until you have accumulated three recommendations.

In reality, the LinkedIn recommendation system is useless.  Here’s why:

  • Recommendations are universally positive. No one in their right mind would permit a negative recommendation to appear on their profile.  Self-selected recommendations tell me nothing about you, except that you can apparently convince others to laud you in public.  I suspect this is a quid pro quo practice anyway, so even that skill is suspect.
  • Recommendations are usually solicited. Who hasn’t gotten a request for a recommendation?  How many of us have written one, if only to avoid an awkward refusal?  Not to upset anyone, but if I really thought highly of you, I’d write a recommendation without prompting.
  • Honest recommendations are tainted. Surrounded by so many fake recommendations, the occasional sincere unsolicited recommendation is lost in the noise.  Their value is diminished to the point that they are useless.
  • Real recommendations occur without the knowledge of the subject. Real recommendations (which LinkedIn was trying to emulate) occur between people privately.  When someone calls and asks my opinion of another person, they’ll get a real recommendation.   It will have for more value to the requester than any generic recommendation on LinkedIn.

To eliminate all these problems, I think LinkedIn should just drop the entire system.  No more recommendations cluttering up profiles, no more requests filling up my LinkedIn mailbox, no more “happy talk” about people you’d otherwise not write about.

Instead, when you want to find out about someone, find a mutual connection on LinkedIn and contact them.  Use LinkedIn for what it was intended: connecting with your professional network to learn things and do a better job. You’ll get a better, honest answer that benefits everyone concerned.

And please, if you like this idea, recommend it to someone else.

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