Category Archives: Creativity

Destination Unknown

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s perfectly find to meander. You just might stumble upon your destination.

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Save the Day

Often, too often, the agenda is not clear, the audience is not understood, and the purpose of the meeting hasn’t been communicated.

As Pre-Sales it is our responsibility and delight to save the day:

  • Determine what the audience is there to learn
  • Volunteer to take over
  • Grab their attention and bring them value.
  • Be brilliant and brief

Look at that.  You’ve been memorable.

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The other side of the bed

We’re creatures of habit and convenience.

It might be the view to the television, the wall the bed is near, or just a matter of how the room is laid out, but in a given hotel room, most of the guests naturally get into the bed on a certain side.

Travel tip:

For a better night’s sleep, slide on over to check out the other side of the bed.  You may discover a practically unused section of the mattress.  Instant room upgrade!

Goodnight and pleasant dreams, road warriors.

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Reversing the direction of What, How, and Why

Surely you’ve run across a messaging structure that helps boil down everything you have to get across into simple steps.  These frameworks are easy to use and help you think while reducing the time and effort required to prepare a customer presentation.  Let’s look at two of them:

Is-Does-Means

If you have a module or a feature, you can quickly and clearly get across what it is, what it does, and then close the point with what that means to your audience, e.g. “my mobile phone is a small, battery-powered mobile device which helps me do email, messaging, and phone calls, which means I can stay in touch with family, friends, and business partners wherever I am.”

What-How-Why

As you prepare your solution and how it specifically applies to your customer, you might find it helpful to write the words What, How and Why on separate pieces of paper and brainstorm through a mind-mapping exercise.  You’ll come out with something like “our product is a call center (what), it handles inbound and outbound communications and manages tickets through to resolution (how), so that you can better serve your customers (why).”

The direction of these structures is from your product to the benefits they provide the customer.  What happens if we play these in reverse?

If you want to stay in touch with your family, friends, and business partners no matter where you are, it would be helpful to have a single device that can help you do emailing, messaging and phone calls, like a mobile phone!”

If you want to serve your customers better, you’ll need to handle inbound and outbound communications and tickets through to resolution.  Our call center product…”

If you want to grab your audience’s attention, start with the value to them, progress through what they’d logically need to accomplish that value, and conclude with your product as the solution.

The Whys and Means will usually jump out at you during discovery.  Flag them.  When you craft your messaging, simply collate and prioritize them.

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Technology simplifies

For a recent demonstration…

I sat down to a web-meeting and conference call (VOIP telephony) and shared my desktop, while connected to my corporate VPN, running a virtual computing system (the demonstration system) accessed remotely (through a desktop emulator), which was itself running a virtual phone system / communications technology (the product being demonstrated), dialed into via cell phone by a peer on-site at the customer, which came back into my USB headset, which was itself full-duplexing the concall, the inbound call, and a conferenced demo role all at once through the same headphones and mic, recording the calls themselves to boot.  All from my laptop, wirelessly connected to a router connected to a cable-modem inside my home office.

I took a smooth sip of coffee and showed them how easy the products were to use.

I’m sure you would have done the same.

Rats! I forgot to show the email and chat features!
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An Interesting Analogy

Our audiences best understand complex solutions and messages through analogies.

There are many brainstorming techniques to help find the right analogy.*  While creative people seem to come up with them on the fly, there may be a better source for analogies:

What are your interests?

Do you play a musical instrument?  Are you a photographer? Is economics or politics a passion of yours?  Can you quote Shakespeare?  Can you explain what a nickel-defense package is?  Have you read the daily comics for twenty years?

Your interests are ripe fruit for an analogy, and your depth of knowledge and passion in these areas will enhance its detail and relevance.  Subject matter expertise in your area can represent subject matter expertise in the customers.  Heuristics** are compatible.

Sharing your interests also improves your relationship with the customer.  You’re human.  You’re thinking.  You’re sharing.

* I once had a seminar where we pulled plastic toys out of a bag and had to use it as the analogy.  It was like a comedy session on “Who’s Line is it, Anyway?”
** Big word, but I think it applies.
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Your Competition is out there

On YouTube, actually.

While your engagements will keep you busy discovering, preparing, presenting, and following up, it’s a good practice to check out your competition once in a while.

Watch their demos.  Take notes.  Observe what they say versus what they show.  They reveal an awful lot about themselves in a few short minutes.*  See if you can duplicate their use cases with your solutions.

Your customers are watching these demos too**, so you’d better be familiar with the expectations they’ll have of you.  These demos are the table-stakes in the game.  The better ones will set the competitive bar.  Match the competition’s bid, raise ’em, and call.

You should be knowledgeable enough of your competition to do a better job positioning their solutions than they would.

Because you’re the best.

*Or longer.  Customer conference keynotes, training classes, customer stories, future visions, press releases, and more are available to you within a few clicks.
** When your prospective customer searches for videos about your solution, what will they find?
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Stand Up

A few months ago I found myself putting in a lot of windshield time getting from one customer engagement to another.  Lacking scheduled conference calls and a little bored with the radio, I wondered… “Can I punch ‘Bill Cosby’ into Pandora?”

Why yes, I could!

Spend some time listening to stand up comedians. Their livelihood depends on their skills for storytelling, use of humor (obviously), writing and preparation, and, perhaps most important, their sense of timing.* So do ours.  The more you listen, the more you’ll be able to pick out the good from the mediocre; the crafted message from the cheap laugh, and the writing conventions they use to expand on a topic, move from one to the next, and touch back to a point or theme introduced earlier in the act.  Dylan Brody is an excellent example as a “purveyor of fine words and phrases.”

 *The Smothers Brothers are masters of timing, from the pregnant pause to the unexpected interjection.  Dick’s ‘little brother’ Tommy is the devilish mastermind of the duo.  From interviews I’ve seen, he intentionally pulls his brother’s strings on stage, which makes the experience all the more genuine.
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Spock has a sense of humor. He just doesn’t believe he does.

I’ve noticed through my career that when you bring a creative person (a designer, a photographer, an artist, a Photoshop specialist) into a technology-related project, they get the technical aspects of the project right away.

I’ve also noticed that that the analytic people involved in the project are in awe and amazement at the creative person’s artistic skills.  “I could never draw/layout/photograph/stylize like that.”

My conclusion has always been that creatives can be analytical but analytics can’t be creative.

I have always been wrong.

Analytics have been told (by themselves or others) that they are not creative.  And they (myself included) have been dumb enough to believe this.  I don’t know if creatives were lucky enough to be tagged creative early on, or if they were wise enough to scoff at the notion they couldn’t be creative.  But to accept that you can’t be creative and therefore never try…

That’s just sad.

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Communication, understanding, problem-solving, relationship-building

When you get your hair cut, there’s usually a big mess on the floor when you’re done.  The same applies when you’re solving business problems with customers:

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