I recently had the honor of greeting the fantastic volunteers that participated in the Panasonic Triathlon in support of JDRF. I was so inspired that I made the decision - in fact, I made the declaration – that I would participate in a triathlon within the next six months. I'd thought about doing one before but the hold back has always been the swimming. This time it was going to be different! I immediately reached out to several NYC swimming programs stating my interest with an invitation to call back at their convenience.
I was pleased when the next day, my top choice called me back. After trading phone calls a few times, we finally connected. When we did, I could immediately tell something was “off" about our call. The owner that returned my call was abrupt and curt. She seemed to want to talk at me, rather than to me. The more questions I asked, the more irritated she seemed. I tried sharing information about my interests and asked what she thought would be the best lesson plan - that fell on deaf ears. I decided I'd had enough when I asked a question about the company and the reply "didn't you read our website?" I muttered "I don't think this is going to work" and hung up with her in mid-sentence. I'm not proud of that response but I believe customers should be treated respectfully.
A few minutes after our conversation ended, I was surprised to get an email from the owner apologizing for what had happened. I was even more amazed when she phoned a few minutes later explaining that she wanted to better understand what had taken place. Her tone was vastly different. I shared that I didn't feel like she was listening to me or that she cared about my interests. Bottom line: she seemed ready to sell way before I was ready to buy. She apologized again and explained that she knew she shouldn't have returned my call when she did. She had just been through managing a difficult staffing situation but felt pressure to call back ASAP. I let her know how impressed I was that she had the courage to engage a dissatisfied customer. In my experience, people rarely do this voluntarily. We ended up having a great conversation. I just finished my second swimming lesson with her program and feel like I'm on my way though I have lots of work ahead. Triathlon, here I come!
This may not seem like a big deal to you. To me, it illustrated a reality many of us, particularly in fields like sales and fundraising, don't consider. Yes, first impressions are critical to paving the way towards a successful relationship. It's true that you only get one chance for the FIRST impression. But why not be courageous enough to create opportunities for a SECOND if the first doesn't go well? That's what the owner of my swim program did and beyond the quality of her service, the simple fact that she cared enough to give it another shot put me right in her corner.
I wanted to highlight three things about she did that I believe we can all utilize next time we want to go for a super SECOND impression if the first one doesn't take:
Give it another shot - The simple act of the owner picking up the phone and trying again instantly changed my perception of her. How could it not? That takes guts, tenacity and caring. Who can fault someone for having any of those qualities? As a side note, for those of you who like to learn sales techniques, this has parallels to the "Blame Me" close. The idea is that you call back a prospect that turned you down and apologize profusely for not having correctly explained the benefits and value of your product and service. The difference between a technique like this and a true relationship builder is the difference between manipulation and authenticity.
Own your mistake - I already felt bad about the whole interaction. I don't like ending a call like that anymore than the person on the other end of the line does. Whether she knew how I felt or not, the owner didn’t try to put me on the defensive. In fact, she took 100% responsibility for what had transpired. She opened herself up to being vulnerable and owned the fact that waiting to call me would have been better.
We have more opportunities than we realize - Please know that I’m not advocating for not doing your 150% best on your first try. Get it right the first time that’s the main thing (to quote Billy Joel). This absolutely falls under the category of “You never know what can happen” until you try it. But imagine the build in your pipeline if you reached back to potential clients, donors, participants where something might have been off the day you spoke.
Share yourself, be a little vulnerable and ask for another chance to work with them. You truly never know what can happen.
This past Friday, I went to see the band Yes for the 30th time. They've been my favorite band since I discovered them in 1979 and I've see them yearly since then. I would describe my recent concert experience as enjoyable, a bit sad and ultimately inspiring. The concert was enjoyable for several reasons. The band covered an intriguing set list featuring the complete play of one of my favorite albums. They then hit several classics and followed with some risk-taking as they played material from one of their lesser-known works. Most importantly, the music was played with absolute skill and technical prowess.
The sad part: With a band that's been around since 1969 health and age become a factor. Yes has always been characterized by an ever-changing line up with new blood often stimulating creativity. Nowadays the changes have come about as a result of health issues and sadly, in one case, the death of a member. The current line-up features no original members. There are two that have been there since the 70's and early 80's. The rest are replacement players.
As I drove home from the show, a line from the movie Rocky 3 kept coming to mind. If you're a Rocky fan, you may remember that Apollo mentors Rocky to fight in his style. Toward the end of the film Apollo says to Rocky "Just remember, you fight great BUT I'm a great fighter". If you've stayed with me till now, you may be wondering what in the world Yes or Rocky has to do with better fundraising and customer engagement which is generally what I blog about. Actually, quite a bit…
What was inspiring to me from the concert was that I had just watched 5 musicians play music flawlessly. BUT something was missing. I realized that something was the inspiration of Chris Squire, the bassist and only member of Yes to appear on every album before passing away last year. Whether you appreciate Chris Squire (or Yes or Rocky for that matter) isn't critical. What is critical to know is that his very presence provided irreplaceable leadership. His very being was the "glue" that pulled the band together and challenged each member to be at their best.
If you're a management consultant you’d simply call what I’m describing as synergy. I'm going to define it as "the 1% difference". It's that just barely discernable difference between everyone on stage playing flawlessly and the music possessing a true heart and soul. It's the difference between Rocky executing Apollo's moves and Apollo embodying those moves in his very being. And yes I realize we’re talking about a rock band and a fictional character!
Of course the above relates to our work as fundraisers and volunteer managers. This inspirational difference is the one between doing all the right things - asking the right questions, using good "fundraising technique" and wholeheartedly embracing your organization’s mission. It’s going beyond the appropriate actions and moving into the realm of true caring and compassion for your volunteers, participants and donors.
Try to imagine what that 1% difference could look like in your life. What would it look like when it comes to being with your family as a spouse, parent or even a sibling? Maybe it’s being truly present in every one of your interactions and appreciating everything that makes them special and meaningful to you. What could it look like in terms of things you do for enjoyment? Perhaps it’s the difference between exercising because “you’re supposed to” and finding real joy in a sport, activity or hobby of your choice (even if it can’t be recorded, monitored, and analyzed on a Garmin device or a fit-bit – imagine that!). Finally, what does that difference look like for your work? Only you can define that but my hunch is that it’s limited only by your imagination and willingness to put yourself out there and be at your absolute best.
I challenge you – and myself – to find that 1% difference in our lives. Keep looking for it – it’s truly worth finding.
To be successful as fundraisers, we must inspire and motivate our donors and P2P participants every day. To do that, we have to be physically and mentally healthy and positive. As I've mentioned in a few other posts, I was born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) and am grateful to be healthy, active and living a life that connects many of my passions. With that in mind, I recently shared some thoughts on how to be at the top of our game every day on the Adult Congenital Heart Association website. As I felt that the suggestions were relevant to our work as fundraisers, I've included most of the blog post below:
Since my cardiologist cleared me for it, I’ve started running or cycling each morning. While I have my choice of routes, I’ve quickly fallen into a routine. While several of my options are more scenic, I find myself making sure that all my runs and rides pass by a particular high school in my neighborhood. I do this because every morning, the Dean stands at the door and greets each student with an authentic smile and firm handshake. The smile is genuine as opposed to the type that politicians have learned to perfect. The handshake is firm and welcoming. I can just tell by the reaction from the students.
There's something about seeing this morning ritual I find particularly inspiring. I often ride away wondering what those students think and how that greeting makes them feel. Other times I think about how different this is from when I was in school. When I was in high school, the only time we had contact with the Principal (we didn't have a Dean) was when we were in trouble. I even find myself pondering whether I might have been a different person today if all my school days started this way. OK, that may be over-dramatic. But you get the point...
My early morning routine got me thinking of how we start our days as adults and particularly as those with CHD. It’s unlikely that the leaders of our organizations (the adult version of school) are going to greet us each morning. Moreover, while it would be great if each morning our cardiologists gave us an “all clear” for the day, that’s probably not going to happen either. But I think there are some things we can do on our own to create that very positive vibe to start the day. Here are some suggestions for you:
Do something every morning that inspires you: Since I’ve written in this blog and others of my love of running and cycling, you'll probably suspect I'm going to suggest you run, bike, or exercise. I'm not. I am going to simply suggest you find a practice or discipline that grounds you, relaxes you and makes you a bit happier than when you got out of bed. Maybe it is some form of exercise but just as likely not. Reading, writing, playing your instrument of choice or even ventriloquism (I couldn't resist as I have several antique ventriloquist dummies). Anything that makes you feel uniquely you is perfect.
Do something every morning that inspires others (or just makes them start their day a little better): What if you could play the role that the Dean of my favorite school takes on? Be the one in your office that's known for complimenting everyone on something: their work, a project, or even their outfit. Bring in the bagels, coffee or a healthy snack every Wednesday (or Monday or Friday or whatever). What does this have to do with your heart health? Everything! I’m not going to get scientific but doing good things for others is one of the best ways to remove stressors from your body and replace them with positive energy.
Do something every morning that puts you in touch with Gratitude: Let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re living with CHD but have come through surgery – or even several – and are managing through it. That, in and of itself, offers us so much to be grateful for and is worth remembering every day. I can point to dozens of blogs, website and videos to show you how but the truth is that we all express this in different ways. Just be sure to do it…and not just in the morning.
Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com