One of the best questions to ask your clients

I love working with smart people. It’s inspiring.

I’m working with someone at the moment who gets selling. He gets how to get inside buyers’ heads and he gets the concept of talking a buyer’s language and really – I mean – really figuring out what they are looking for in a service.

Adrian Evans is an author, headhunter and career coach and we’re in the middle of building something rather awesome for one of his clients. I know it’s awesome, because it’s going to be solving their problems and is really giving them something which they don’t have today which will move them forwards as a business.

How do I know all of this? Because he has asked just the right question before we even started.

“How will you judge this?”

So simple, yet genius.

He has got his client to lay out to him their success criteria, how they will feel when it’s right, how their senior management will react to something and what they’re expecting from a deliverable in one simple question.

I love it and I will be using it myself in the days and weeks to come.

The screenshot by the way is taken from the ‘thing’ we’re developing (logo blurred). That studio isn’t real by the way – it’s all done using the magic of greenscreen. You’ll find out more here.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get – part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It contained a bunch of different examples of some surprising cases of people asking, and much to their surprise, getting what they asked for.

I thought it was time to start practicing what I was preaching.

My principle business, 8:45TV is a video production business. Once in a while, I have to get stuck in to an edit, despite having fabulous and far more talented people around me. It was time for an upgrade a couple of weeks ago. I’d had Adobe’s Premiere 5.5 for a couple of years and wanted to treat myself to the upgrade to v6. It seemed to be worth the money.

So – having done my research, I bought the upgrade from the Adobe website.

I own Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5 – therefore an upgrade here in the UK to v6 costs £112.00

Having downloaded the product, I’m prompted to enter the previous serial number, which I do, however it refuses to let me activate the software.

I get on the chat helpdesk, which is pretty good, and after I described the situation, I realised I own the Adobe Production Suite 5.5 (which contains Premiere Pro and is rather an expensive piece of software) however, there is no allowable upgrade path for just one of the products within it.

Really?

Is this licensing gone mad?

Here I am, giving Adobe £112 for a piece of software (incremental revenue with no costs to them) and yet due to a technicality, they won’t license it. The operator said I’d be entitled to a refund and explained how I should go about it.

I was cross.

And so fell back on the “If you don’t ask, you don’t get post“, and decided to test out not only that concept, but Adobe’s responsiveness to customer service – as let’s be honest, most corporates fail dismally.

Adobe does not.

I Tweeted the following…

Within 48 minutes, a very nice lady named Beverley had been in touch. She asked me for the order details and followed up with an email.

Within 15 hours, Adobe had bent their own rules for me. They’d seen sense, and someone somewhere had been empowered to make a customer happy, and importantly, both sides won.

I’m writing this post to firstly thank the nice Adobe people (who do get a bad press around licensing) and to show the proof of my own hypothesis – around the whole asking and getting thing.

The moral of the story is… Don’t get mad – try asking the right question, and you just never know…

Go on – give it a go.

Do the right thing

It’s been a strange week for me. So many different things have happened which I won’t bore you with.

At 8pm on Monday I got a phonecall which changed my week somewhat. One of my biggest clients of our video production business, 2e2, was going into administration the next day. It was likely 100s of people would lose their jobs and my business had some exposure.

As it turned out the following morning, 319 people were asked to leave immediately and wouldn’t be paid for their January employment. Shocking mismanagement in my book.

This is a multimillion pound business, which had grown exponentially over the previous years through acquisition.

Last night I was invited to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research annual awards ceremony because of our recent fund raising activities, where I stood with my wife, tears rolling down cheeks as we listened in awe to stories of triumph over adversity… of people giving back… being selfless and doing amazing things.

My point today is a simple one.

There are plenty of people in business out to make a quick buck, who would sell their own grandmother and trample over anything and anyone to make a few quid.

Don’t be one of them.

Have some morals. Treat people right… treat people fairly… look after those who have helped you… give something back.

After all, it’s not a rehearsal.

 

7 things to do when you can’t concentrate

No one can work to their full potential all the time.

Depending on what’s happening in your business or personal life, you will perform at different levels. Sometimes you’ll be working away, but just can’t concentrate – and you’re just not getting anything done, or not doing it well enough. It might just be time to do something different and face the fact you’re not working to your full potential.

The list below reflects my personal experiences. Number 7 is very dear to my heart.

1) Tackle a different task

Chances are if you’re floundering at one type of task – perhaps writing a proposal, then if you move onto what I’d call ‘light duties’ and tackle simpler to do items on the list, you might well find yourself gathering momentum again. It’s OK to have to be ‘in the mood’ for writing… If you’re not – there’s little point in continuing.

2) Walk around

Anywhere will do. Walk around your office or get outside – take time to walk around the block or jump in the car and treat yourself to a Skinnylattecappucinofrappe at your overpriced cafe round the corner – a change of environment is a good thing. Try looking for something positive you have never seen. Let your mind wander. Life is going on in the world around you. You just need to notice it.

3) Set an alarm

Work on just one thing for a period of time. Maybe it’s just 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Maybe it’s two minutes. But at the end of the time, you will notice what’s it’s like to experience real focus. And if you complete the task, you’ll feel good about yourself. I do this when ‘supervising’ my son doing his homework. Set the iPhone timer and let him here it ringing…

4) Open a business book

Flick open a dusty one from your shelves to a random page and read for five minutes. Let your mind apply whatever you’re reading to whatever you are working on. Randomness is a great thing and inspiration comes in many ways.

5) Plan something fun

Sometimes, just knowing you’ve got something to look forward to in a week or a month can be a real driver. Pick up the phone, make a reservation for dinner at somewhere you can’t afford. Then look at your day differently – you need to sell, you need to deliver, you need to achieve.

6) Figure out if you’re being distracted

Look at your office environment. Is this lack of concentration happening a lot? Maybe it’s time to revisit how you work. Are you working form one 12″ laptop screen with no mouse? because that’s not condusive to being productive! Is your office cluttered? Do you have alerts coming in from all angles and children running around you? All bad.

I’ve talked about my ideal consultant office setup here.

7) Revisit the plan

Sometimes when you can’t concentrate on a task there’s an underlying lack of motivation lurking behind the scenes. Close down what you’re doing and get the plan out. The 2 year plan – the one which ties your business to your personal dreams and take a look at it. Does it need revising? Is what you’re struggling to work on fitting in with it, or does the plan need to change.

If you find the plan is still good, then maybe the task you’re stuggling with isn’t helping with your goals?

What? You don’t have a plan? We need to talk…

Image courtesy of massdistraction

How to create product screenshots without Photoshop

The product screenshot you see in this post has been generated without Photoshop or any other form of image manipulation software. It was also produced in approximately 15 seconds!

In the video below, I show you how to do it, including how to take a screenshot from your iPhone or iPad, if you’ve always wondered how.

I honestly believe it’s one of the coolest shortcut techniques I’ve ever discovered.

10 ways to get a business adrenaline rush

I bore myself (and others probably) by saying that ‘It’s not a rehearsal’

Sometimes it’s hard to make every day at work exciting, exhilarating or downright inspiring, however, if you work for yourself (doing what you enjoy and having complete control over your time and resources) means that you can have a damn good try.

Frankly, I feel for the people who go to work and then come home again and their emotional level throughout the day remains at fixed at ‘neutral’. WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?!

You’re put on this earth for 80+ years if you’re lucky. Chances are you’ll be working 40+ of those… that’s 90,000 hours of your life (and yes, I removed weekends and holidays). For goodness sake – let’s enjoy it!

It occurred to me yesterday that it is possible to have a business adrenaline rush. You know that feeling… the one where you feel great, feel alive and are so pleased with yourself you don’t want the day to end. This wouldn’t work every day for sure – (or your family would likely disown you on grounds of being unbearable) – but you can plan on making them happen fairly regularly.

Here are ten suggestions to lighting the blue touch paper – it’s fair to say all are based on personal experience.

  • Listen to your heart beating during the ring tone before an important call to someone you’ve never spoken to before.
  • Make an audacious appointment with someone famous, someone you admire, someone who could help you in business. And get it.
  • Make the phone call you’ve been putting off because you’ve been afraid of rejection. Savour the feeling afterwards when it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
  • Get a signature on a month-changing deal.
  • Arrange meetings so close together in a day you have to run between them.
  • Move a step closer to signing a year-changing deal.
  • Stand up and talk to an audience, ever so slightly unprepared and use your experience to get you through.
  • Say no to a client, because you’re right and leave with your head held high.
  • Plan a mini-retirement – and have confidence that your clients will still be there when you get back.
  • Be so inspired by a book, person or idea that you set your alarm even earlier than normal.
  • BONUS: Invite someone, not expecting it, out for dinner and create a new relationship which may just lead places.

Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

How to ask good questions…

My dad has taught me from an early age that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Asking a client for the deal, asking a partner for a better deal or asking brave questions to a prospect normally yield interesting and unexpected results. 

Sadly most people start with the premise that someone’s going to say no. If you do, you’ll ask in the wrong way. 

Be confident. If your question is a good one offering a potential win-win for both sides, then there’s every chance you’ll be surprised with the answer

Here’s some great examples of people asking bold questions and getting great and unsurprising answers.

1) The case of the lost Lego

lego-letter

2) Giraffe Bread at Sainsburys Supermarket

One simple letter from a 3 year old…
SONY DSC
Gave rise to 140,000 Likes in a Facebook campaign and this response from Sainsburys…
giraffe-bread-letter-2

3) A man who likes his steak

Peter Shankman had had a long day travelling, realised he wouldn’t have time to make or buy dinner as his flight was getting in late. He was a regular with a steakhouse, which turns out to be 23.5 miles away from New York’s Newark airport, where he was heading.
Before he got on his flight – he sent this Tweet:
porterhouse-tweet
He was joking of course… and Morton’s restaurant knew he was joking – however to return to the title of this post – you know what happens next don’t you?
They met him at the airport, much to his total surprise.
mortons-new-york
An amazing example of customer service – yes – but let’s not forget what’s actually happened here – Peter dared to ask… and he got a great and unexpected result.
Learn how to ask good questions, dare to ask a question you wouldn’t normally ask – and see what happens.
Love to hear your examples below.

Do you just belong?

Saw this poem pinned up the other day on a sports club noticeboard and it resonated with me…

Do you stand on the sidelines looking in or do you participate and get involved? It’s too easy to just watch from afar. Sure, it’s hard putting your head above the parapet – there are trolls and plenty of others to shoot you down, pick holes and generally complain. They’re a minority though.

If you are one of those who ‘just belong’… maybe 2013 is the year to try something different. After all, it’s not a rehearsal.

Are you an active member-
The kind that would be missed
Or are you just contented
That your name is on a list?

Do you attend the functions
And mingle with the crowd
Or do you stay at home
And grumble long and loud?

Do you take an active part
To help the Club along
Or are you satisfied to be
The kind that ‘just belong’?

Do you ever come along
And information seek
Or leave the work to just a few
And talk about a ‘clique’?

There’s quite a programme scheduled
That means success if done
And it can be accomplished
With the help of ‘everyone’.

So why not come along
And help with hand on heart
Don’t be ‘just a member’
But take an active part

Think this over members
Are we right or are we wrong
Are you an ‘active member’
Or do you ‘JUST BELONG’!?

10 tips for awesome screen capture videos

A great way to get your message (and personality) across

Screen cams / screencaptures / screenflows are all around us. People are all too keen on YouTube to show us the latest and greatest software, however in far too many cases, where people just aren’t familiar with producing videos, they’re more likely to default to text or badly labelled PowerPoint slides, which is a pity. So often a quickly put together screencam could speed up your communications to many or in a 1:1 situation.

Having been a runner up in the 2011 TechSmith Screenchamp awards, I thought I’d offer some thoughts…

1.) Get it right on paper!

It’s so obvious, but I’m compelled to start with it – GET IT RIGHT ON PAPER. Work out what on earth you want to say first of all. Don’t just start waffling – have yourself a mindmap / cigarette packet / napkin / piece of beautifully labelled A3 – whatever your choice. If you plan it out in advance, it will take you minutes to produce a work of art as opposed to an hour to produce a mess. I have to say – one of my favourite tools is a piece of A3 paper.

2.) Keep it short

Make it as short as it can be. People hate waffle. Which brings me back to #1. Reduce the umms and arrrs by being clear in your thought process. Rehearse your ‘voiceover’ if you have to and don’t be afraid to re-record it if it just doesn’t flow. You’ll often find, recording it second time round it sounds and flows better.

3.) It’s all about the sound

Ensure you have a great microphone. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. People can handle average video – poor quality sound is a massive turn off. Whether you’re PC or Mac – I use this USB mic attached to this boom which works a treat. Crystal clear sound, plus I get to relive the olden days and feel like I’m a radio presenter all over again 😉

4.) Maybe there’s a better way?

Think about the format you’re going to create a screencapture in. Recently, I’ve come up with an interesting method for describing concepts, which involves turning a webcam upside down, a decent light, a piece of A3 paper and a big marker pen. With 6,000 views in a month – it seems to be resonating. Maybe, recording a screen isn’t the right answer? Maybe recording you standing in front of a whiteboard, talking is a better idea. Consider the best way to get your message across.

5.) Idea first, software second

If you are going to do a screen capture – you need the right software. Screenflow on a Mac is great. Camtasia (cheaper on Amazon than going direct!) on a PC is pretty good too. You can also check out the free services Jing and Screenr. Accept that if you’ve not used a piece of software before, there’s going to be a learning curve. Don’t shout at it – it may not be the software’s fault – it could be ‘user error’. Like everything in life, the more you do, the easier it becomes.

6.) Tell a story

If you’re going to show how a piece of software works, put things into context – show a workflow… tell a story… paint a picture. Telling your audience that SHIFT-CONTROL-F10 enables the syntax error debugging code window in full screen mode helps no one – especially if they’re a novice, which leads me on to

7.) Consider your audience

Is your audience my dad? Or is your audience an 18 year old college kid who spends 21 hours a day in front of a screen? There’s a big difference in how you tell your story – make sure you speak to your audience

8.) Prepare your assets

When you’re putting your story together – you’ll almost certainly need external files – to upload an image / create a document etc – have them to hand so you don’t spend half of your screencam searching directories. While I’m on it – for goodness sake don’t show the world all your private, personal stuff – hide your browser bookmarks, ensure you don’t navigate personal folders… it will save you having to mask it all out further down the production

9.) File formats

Ensure you export your video file in a decent format. WMVs and FLVs are so 1980’s – the file type of choice for best streaming would be a .MP4 / .M4V – these are universally accessible, are converted by YouTube nicely and are the best quality vs filesize balance of all the file types.

10.) Showcase and promote your work

There’s not much point in producing beautiful work if no one sees it. Enter it into competitions, embed it on your blog – get people to talk about what you’re doing and if you get really good at it – why not build a few, and turn them into a course. Don’t forget to give a couple of modules away for free though…

If you’ve found any great screencammers out there – add them into the comments below.