I have known Dr. Jim Karrh for about 30 years. In fact, I just know him as Jim. Jim and I actually went to business school together at the Duke Fuqua School back in the late 80s. Even back then, he was a leader amongst all our peers and we knew he would go out and do great things. In fact, since those 30 years, Jim is really helping formulate the idea of messaging and communicating more clearly and concisely so you can better serve your clients. So on this Massimo Show, we’re going to dive in to managing your message and doing that with the help of my friend Dr. Jim Karrh.
Full Transcript –
Hi, this is Rod Santomassimo and welcome to the Massimo Show. The objective of the Massimo Show is to share how you can maximize your personal professional margin. That’s right. Let’s make more money in less time. Let’s turn chaos into clarity, confusion into confidence and income into real wealth. Along with sharing my insight on how I grew a multimillion dollar professional business, we’re going to bring you the expert advice from a variety of authors, consultants and thought leaders who provide the tools you need to maximize your own personal and professional margin. Welcome to the Massimo Show.
Rod: When we think about messaging and we think about communication, we all have our assumptions and what does that mean? Is it going to be what we say during a prospecting call? Is it going to be what we say during a pitch? Is it going to be what we say during a sales meeting or a team meeting or maybe to an influence and/or to a client. So what in fact is communication? Well, I asked Jim, look, help me out. This idea of communication has so many angles. Where does it all start?
Dr. Jim Karrh: Well, Rod, I find that the topic of communication winds up being this big bucket, almost like a dumpster, that people seem to pile their problems into, right? They say, oh, we must not be communicating well or someone’s not communicating with me well or somehow we’re missing the mark on our message. The thing that I’ve found, and this is a product of a lot of research and study, but even more so, I’ve worked with, gosh, more than 10,000, sales professionals, and people who are offering lots of high value professional services and solutions that this is really a manageable business problem. Now, we have to break it down a little bit – communication is a very broad spectrum, right? That’s a very big bucket or a big dumpster, if you will, of figuring out exactly what is the role that everyday business conversations play in your kind of business. And is it just you, is there a team involved? Are you dealing with one buyer or a group of buyers? All that sort of thing. And really break it down into component parts, get past a lot of wrong assumptions that many of us have been saddled with for a long time and then really put together a simple repeatable plan for addressing where the soft spots might be.
Rod: In our line of work, we get a lot of times Hey, give me this silver bullet for maximizing my income or being more productive or what’s the one thing… And unfortunately like most practices, it’s not the silver bullet because there is no such thing, but in fact there is silver buckshot. It’s your ability to do many little things consistently over time that can make the greatest difference. But certainly you may ask, is there a pitch? Is there a script? Is there something I can say that will get me more attention. Give me something short circuited to really go through the process of messaging.
Dr. Jim Karrh: Rod, my experience is like yours. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no, you remember the easy button to be able to push and can we just do some one thing that I can stand out and be appreciated? And attract and keep ideal clients, push away the competition, be efficient, put my toes in the sand, and not have to work too hard. There is not a silver bullet. There is not an easy button. But I like your analogy there, the silver buckshot. And I think what you’ve likely found in your consulting and coaching, much as I’ve found in mine, there is an approach, there are some disciplines that are interconnected that very high achievers tend to follow. The high achievers, the people who use this very strategically and well break it down into, well, it’s a bit of a three legged stool.
The three components which overlap. So the first one, Rod, is the message itself. And we can talk about each of these in a little bit more detail as we go along. But the message is the actual words that you say, the things that you show, the stories that you tell when you’re speaking with prospects or influencers or people in the community when you’re having those sorts of conversations. So choosing the right words, getting the right focus, knowing how to tell a story, that’s all part of the message component. Now the second part are the messengers, the actual human beings involved in this, right? So part of it is that a lot of us don’t have a great conception of what’s needed. We feel like we lack the skills, we don’t know quite what to say. People lack confidence in sharing stories and sharing evidence and examples in those everyday conversations.
So thinking about what is it that messengers need. You, particularly, but the members of your team, your current clients, friends and influencers in the community. So how do you feed that system? Give people what they need in order to serve as messengers for you. The third leg of the stool are management habits. And I think that gets around to a lot of what you talk about, Rod, with the Silver Buckshot, right? What are the disciplines you have? What are the habits that you follow daily, weekly, quarterly in terms of keeping the message fresh? When people are new to your organization, how do you onboard them so that they know the story? They can tell the story well when people are in new roles. All of those moving parts. So if you think about this strategic issue, this manageable business problem, the way to approach it, I think, what I found to be effective is to think in terms of the message, the messengers and the management habits that you can lead on a regular basis.
Rod: I love the idea of the three legged stool – let’s just dig deeper into that. And so Jim, our audience, you know, like most sales independent contractors, they’re prospecting by telephone. They’re prospecting potentially by letters. They’re reaching out and personally meeting with individuals to prospect. They’re relying on influencers in the marketplace to share with them the value they have in their value proposition. There are certainly some of them more and more so who are relying on social media to get their value proposition or message out. Understanding that that’s the platform for most of them, I think, from our perspective, let’s talk about the message first and what you say. Go into more detail about what the message – things people should be considering regarding their message. T.
Dr. Jim Karrh: There are some forces that work on us as high value professional service providers, as really good business professionals, that we have to push against in many ways. And one of them is our own brains, when it comes to the message. There’s a pattern that most of us tend to have and we talk about ourselves and our business a little bit too much. If you look at the breakdowns of most everyday business conversations, people are talking about themselves about 60% of the time. And you mentioned social media, it gets even worse. If you spend any time at all on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, you name it, researchers have taken a look at those posts and find that people talk about themselves about 80% of the time on social media.
So it’s fine at some level, Rod, to talk confidently about your offerings and the things that make you distinctive, but it can bore other people. In lots of ways. So what happens is our brains are kind of wired for us to talk about the things we’re most comfortable with and to talk about ourselves. We found through recent brain science research that the parts of our brains that get activated when we talk about ourselves are the same parts of our brains that get activated when we have a great meal or even sex. So it feels good and it feels rewarding to do that. So we have to push back against that instinct and even that chemical compelling event and not talk about ourselves too much. The other force that I find that anyone has to push back against is that you probably know too much about your industry.
You probably know too many things about your product services solutions, and it’s very easy to fall into industry lingo, into technical descriptions, acronyms. It just becomes this shorthand that’s very familiar to us, but it’s not familiar to people on the outside who can buy from us, they can refer us. We need to keep that in mind as well. So when it comes to the message, the most fundamental things to break down and approach strategically is, first of all, do our communications – in our conversations, on the website and social media, whatever the forum or the medium might be – focused more on us or is it focused more on the common opportunities and challenges that our ideal clients face? The other is to make sure that we’re speaking in a language that cuts across industries and speaks in the way that our ideal clients would tend to talk and speak in a way that’s insightful and provocative and compelling for them.
Rod: There’s two really important components to messaging that Jim just shared. Number one, know that it’s all about your audience. It’s not about you. This idea of speaking all about yourself, sharing all about your products, your service, your team, that’s important, absolutely, but it’s not the essential focus of your message. Put it this way – everyone has a favorite radio station. In fact, everyone has the same favorite radio station and that is w i f m, and that means what’s in it for me? “Me” being your audience and not you yourself. Now everyone has a different theme to the radio station. Of course, some folks love, let’s say classical while others like hard rock or alternative or jazz or blues, but you get the message, or do you? That’s the point. Are you providing a message that is aligned with the reception of your audience? Think about it.
Are you tuned into your audience? Is your message about them? Now secondly, Jim shares this idea of using jargon or industry specific terms and most use those terms wrongly believing that we’re somehow sharing and showing and exhibiting our in-depth knowledge of our specific industry or need or challenge. But quite frankly, you’re coming across as a pompous ass and vast people do not want to work with folks who are high and mighty. Sure, they want to know you’re a thought leader. They want to know that this is not your first rodeo. That you can navigate me through whatever obstacles may come my way, but your messaging again has to be at the same terms of where they’re listening. A quick story, when I wrote my first book back in 2011, I shared it before we put it out to the public. I shared it with a friend of mine who also had written books and he responded by saying, Hey Rod, who the heck do you think you are? Frasier Crane?
Now Frasier Crane was a fictional television character. He was a pompous psychologist who always felt he knew everything. As soon as that author shared that with me, I knew I had a problem. I’d written the book in a different level than would ever be received by my audience. In fact, I had to go back and refresh, not rewrite, but refresh the entire book. That was my problem. And thank goodness because of his comment, his feedback, we were able to refresh the book and it’s been very successful even in the last, well, now the last seven years in counting since its release. So the point being, make sure you speak to your audience and make sure we speak at a level or the language that your audience will best receive.
And maybe that’s the next step. Talking about messengers. At first, I think I misunderstood the term messengers. What exactly are we talking about? The actual person delivering the message or your Info answers that are also sharing that message? Or is it both? What exactly is the role of the Messenger in managing your message?
Dr. Jim Karrh: It’s really all of those, Rod. So if you think about in a professional services business, who is it that you want to be talking about you in a consistent and compelling way? Well, certainly if you’re the leader of the team, you’re the leader of the organization, you’re Messenger Number One. What I find is that there are a lot of people, whether they’re in smaller or larger organizations, that they tend to become the Super Rep, the closer, the carrier of the mission and division and the message. And that gets exhausting after awhile,and you can’t really scale it. So those teams and organizations that really stand out through their messaging, they’re able to do it consistently because they equip lots more people than just the leader of the organization or an external sales force. They’re equipping the so-called back office colleagues that they have in the business.
They’re equipping their current clients, friends and influencers in their various communities. So what you really want is a choir. They’re not all going to understand it or have the same incentives that you do, but when you think about the kind of conversation that you would love to take place when you’re not there – might be in a meeting, might be at a civic organization, again, might be at a ball game in your community – and someone, say a current client, is talking about you to one of their friends. What is it that you would like them to say? And reverse engineer that process a little bit. It’s certainly not going to be a script, Rod, but as part of the process of managing the message, it’s identifying who are these people that we would like to equip that have a vested interest in us, in our success, who are in conversations that could be really valuable to us? What is it that we would like them to say? How can we serve them? How can we make that easy and have them be confident and also to express our gratitude and appreciation to them as well. So really managing that process so that a lot more people can be saying similar kinds of things and really help you scale your business.
Rod: I understand. So it’s not just you and your extended team, as you pointed out, your term, the choir. You want your influencers, your clients, your inactive clients all to share that message.
Dr. Jim Karrh: Exactly. And that’s easier. It’s more scalable. And again, gets past the frustration level. You don’t really want to do it all yourself. And I’ve heard a lot of team leaders, organizational leaders that will say, gosh, why don’t they just get it? You know, why do they always have to bring me in? Why do I have to be the only one carrying the torch? So then we say, well, let’s break that down. Let’s kind of get our playbook together here and think about how do we feed that system at the right time. I will say this, there are some leaders, this tends to be a minority case, Rod, but they emotionally kind of like the fact that they are the final word. They may tend to hold that back a little bit. They might think, well, deep down I kinda like coming in for the close, you know, me being the guy. But again, over time, that just wears you down. And I think if you’re really looking for ways to scale what you’re doing and have a competitive advantage that all doesn’t depend on you, then you want to be a little bit more strategic and simple and practical about how you feed a network, a growing network of messengers.
Rod: So Jim, that’s very appropriate because we find there are many teams that are not scalable because the leader – could be the founder, could be the key originator – they do want to be that person, they want to be the highlight. But they also have the inability to teach or share or communicate that message to other team members and allow them to go ahead and present on their behalf, pitch on their behalf. So are there any shortcuts? Wrong term – are there any suggestions you can provide to team leaders who need others to pitch on their behalf?
Dr. Jim Karrh: Rod, the approach that I tend to use is a playbook. And it might not look like a sports playbook, but the concept is to take some key points of knowledge, key points of insight, being very clear about our ideal clients and the people that we’re speaking to, and get a short list, no more than three things that make us distinctive, and gather in one place, one source of truth, some of the most important and compelling client stories that you want to share, and then go through the process so that other people know those things. So that helps you develop more opportunities across more people. And even if you want to be the closer, it’ll help refine what those opportunities and leads are to qualify in a better way and have better conversations when you get closer to a close. Even though I would still caution that over time if you insist on being the closer, you’re really putting a lid on your growth opportunities.
The point is that as you’re developing more of this playbook and the messages that you want to be carried out through a group of other people, they want guidance. If they really want to help you and they’re really trying to help the organization, give them some talking points, some nuggets, maybe even a story that they are able to remember and able to share when the moment comes. I think of a playbook approach as opposed to more of a kind of a standard communication approach as being information and stories and nuggets that are available just in time rather than just in case. I see a lot of working with teams where there’s a repository of stuff. There are descriptions, there’s collateral material, there are case studies. Even their websites might look like, you know, some giant information portal that’s hard to navigate.
That’s a bunch stuff that’s there just in case you ever need it. But we want to equip other human beings with the information, the things that are easy to remember that are fun to share and interesting to share that is ready just in time. So the playbook approach. My recommendation to the leader and to the team is to think through in brief ways, typically in groups of three, what are the most important themes, challenges, trends that your ideal buyers are facing? What is maybe some information about the personas and the things that we know about those ideal clients. What are some compelling stories that really show your customer care, that show your capabilities? And what are the things that really make you distinctive in the marketplace? Get those down and develop those with your team.
In fact, Rod, I found it a great practice that if you have an organization that’s doing well and you’ve got some longstanding clients who really value your work, involve them a little bit as you develop your playbook and your talking points in your messages. If they really care for you and they appreciate the value that you bring, they’ll tell you whether you’re bogged down in industry language. They’ll tell you if you’re saying the kinds of things that will interest others like them. So playbook process, get the most compelling, important and business-driving information that you want people to know and then get a reality check. Let all of your people and let a lot of your clients and friends have a role in looking this over to make sure that it will land where you want it to land.
Rod: Well, it sounds as if having a playbook where you can articulate your message throughout your team is essential. to resonate with those clients and prospectors and messengers, as Dr Jim Karrh shared with us. Look, we need to take a quick break, but when we come back we’re going to talk about that third pillar of the stool and that is those management habits for consistent implementation of the right messaging as well as what are those traps and challenges that Jim has found when working with thousands upon thousands of clients. What issues they’re dealing with and how to overcome them to have a more distinct and more attractive message.
Hi, this is Rod Santomassimo and Dr. Jim Karrh just said, we all need a prospecting playbook, a structured approach to communicating our message. Coincidentally, we’re having our next live event in November in Orlando, Florida. It’s going to be our biggest event yet and we are going to go through a playbook to attack 2020 whatever the market may bring. So if you want to reposition yourself from a prospecting perspective, get your messaging down as well, as well as from a presence perspective, understanding how you have to go out and craft the messages, to what audiences and how to build those messages, then I want you to join us at CREReady2020 – so, checkout www.creready2020.com, and be one of only 100 dedicated commercial real estate professionals to join us in November. We hope to see you there.
Rod: Welcome back to the Massimo Show and our time with Dr. Jim Karrh. So far we talked about two of the three pillars that being the message. Then we talked about the messengers, but now we’re going to really dive into the right management habits to ensure that you consistently implement the right messaging and methodology to have consistency throughout your organization. So let’s jump into it back with our time with Dr. Jim Karrh and how to manage your message.
Well, let’s talk about that third piece and that of course is the right habits. When it comes to our world, the habits, we try to instill with our clients are a message, yes, but a consistent prospecting campaign, a comprehensive personal presence platform, a more thorough differentiating presentation and/or pitch, and certainly leveraging others/leveraging your team. It just some the core habits that all independent contractors, business folks, sales folks should be thinking about. But in your world, when you say the right habits in regards to the message, what are those right habits?
Dr. Jim Karrh: Well, first of all, Rod, I like your approach and I know fundamentally you’ve got the right buckets of activities that will keep teams on track, that’ll keep them consistent, keep them growing, keep the pipeline full, all that’s great. What I find is that I need to shift mindset sometimes with some of my clients. When you look at managing your message, when you look at business communications, sales conversations, to not think of this as a fixed campaign. A lot of times, in the marketing world, if there’s a new product, a new solution, a new audience, you tend to think in terms of a campaign. It starts at time one and it goes until time two and then you have some metrics and when it’s done, you’re on to the next campaign or the next thing. What we’re looking to do here, and I think that’s a lot of what you coach and teach as well, Rod, is we want to have as permanent a message as we can make it, a more permanent elevation into the effectiveness and the consistency of your messaging, of your selling conversations.
And so the way to do that is to not make it a chore, and not make it a thing to endure only for a short period of time and then we can go onto the rest of our lives. That’s change that won’t stick. No. What we want to do, and when I think of management habits, it’s how can we plug these things in to the meetings, to the planning, to the reviews, to the social channels inside the organization. How can we plug this into the activities that we already have and just use that as the venues and the opportunities to make ourselves better? So for example a lot of organizations will have weekly sales meetings if you have a manager and their direct reports. So we will get very granular and say, for example, we’ve developed a set of stories.
We’ve kind of gathered three stories that we want everybody to be able to share or we’ve developed a new kind of an elevator pitch or a hallway conversation. Whatever the thing might be, we’re going to use some time, 10 minutes or 15 minutes going around the table and having people take turns telling this story. Going through that pitch, doing maybe little mini role-plays, talking about success stories, giving everyone more confidence around that. So allocating time within existing meetings because what we want our conversations to do is to develop more referrals or to upsell or cross sell with existing clients. And they may have quarterly business reviews where we want to make sure that we’re using that time to bring in some more provocative or insightful conversations, talk about a trend, talk about some new capabilities that are there.
So whatever the doors that you need to open, Rod, whatever the consistency that you need to build, I like to go in and say, how are you coaching, training, meeting and evaluating today? And then let’s get some small habits that are going to build everyone’s knowledge, skill and confidence, and make sure, as we were talking about before, when you have new people coming into the organization or people changing roles, they’re going from being a seller to a sales manager, for example. How are we onboarding them? How are we equipping them so that all the pieces fit together? Don’t try to make it a campaign, don’t try to make it some big thing, but plug into the way that you already operate. And I think that’s how you get change that sticks.
Rod: How about organizations specific to the real estate side of the world where everyone’s an independent contractor but not employees, you know, they’re their own bosses. And you’re the manager trying to communicate a specific message about the firm or a success story or whatever it might be. Those have, I would think, specific challenges in themselves. So what would you recommend to someone that’s either owning or managing a real estate organization and dealing with independent contractors?
Dr. Jim Karrh: Independent contractors and, I would presume, Rod, independent-minded contractors, right? So here we get into a bit of a distinction and an understanding about the difference I find between managing and coaching versus trying to overly script or dictate things. You have to, in this sort of process, understand and fully appreciate that what we may call messaging or just the way that people talk about themselves and the way that they talk about their business is inherently personal. And it’s important. Most of us in the business world, a lot of our personal identity is wrapped up in what we do and how we make a living and whether we’re recognized and appreciated for that. The people that your listeners are dealing with know their stuff. They’re good, accomplished professionals in many ways. So the reaction that you can have when it comes to this whole part about managing the message, of really strategically approaching your everyday business conversations, Rod, I think there are two different ends of the spectrum, if you will. Neither one is very good.
One end of the spectrum is you can just say, look, I’m dealing with a whole bunch of cowboys and cowgirls out there. It’s too much to try to wrangle it together. People are going to do what they’re going to do. They’re going to say what they’re going to say. So I’m just going to kind of take a laissez faire approach and let the market do what it will. That’s not likely to be an effective approach because you’ll never build any sort of consistency into your message. The other end of the spectrum is you can attempt to over-engineer it. You could try to shoehorn a script into everything that you want other people to do. And I find that inherently disrespectful and it’s not going to work with accomplished professionals.
What’s going to happen if you’re dealing with someone who is a high producer or they’re good at what they do, they’ve been doing it for a long period of time and you come and you try to get too granular with them, they’re going to say, look, I’ve got this. They’re going to be the first ones who are going to kind of push back. So there’s a happy middle and it gets back to some of the things that we were talking about earlier. People who are very good at what they do in a very fast changing environment – commercial real estate is one of those areas that’s changing very, very quickly – they are trying to find ways to get better on a regular basis. That’s why they listen to a podcast like this. This is why they go through training and coaching themselves, they’re looking for that edge.
In that case, you know, help them a little bit with some insights with some stories of this playbook approach that we had. They want to have a little bit better message in ways that they can do better themselves. So it’s not throwing up your hands and going, oh well now our business people are going to just do their own thing and it’s not trying to over script the process because that simply won’t be adopted and used. But I do find that people who are most likely to want to succeed and who are really staying ahead of things, they do want an edge. They do want some information. They do want something that’s insightful that they can bring in their own conversations and be valuable and be seen as a thought leader themselves. You can, in fact, help manage that sort of process.
Rod: So Jim, you referred earlier to your new project which is your book and I’m always excited to learn about new books. I love reading and, more so, listening to books. Tell us about your book and the concept of theme and when it’s coming out and whatever you want to share.
Dr. Jim Karrh: Well, I’d be very happy to share with your listeners and be a resource for them. I’ve worked with a lot of very accomplished sales teams, selling professionals, business owners across a lot of different types of industries and all the way from solo entrepreneurs, solo professionals into Fortune 500 organizations and really love being able to share the things that I’ve learned and the patterns that I see. I do have a new book that’s coming out. It’s my first commercially published book. Rod, I’m still behind you in terms of book publishing. I’ll try to catch up but as of September 1st, 2019, we’ll be launched from a publisher called Career Press. It’s called The Science of Customer Connections – Manage Your Message to Grow Your Business. And I break it down into the three components that we talked about here – message, messengers and management habits – and share a lot of stories and insights, and bits of research and really practical advice and exercises that I think, no matter the size of your business or how long you’ve been at it, you’ll be able to get some very practical advice, very useful advice right away.
I’ll also have it available through my website, which is JimKarrh.com and I have a funny spelling. Rod, you wouldn’t know anything about that…but I have a funny spelling to my name. It’s K, A, R, R, H, and I do a weekly newsletter. I call it the Message Manager Memo, and you can sign up through the website or send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure that you get that. And I also do a podcast because this is a really cool thing. This is a really good medium. It’s called the Manage Your Message Podcast. You can find links through my website and you can also find it on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and all the usual outlets.
Rod: Hey, I really enjoyed this session with my friend Jim Karrh. Jim is obviously a master of how you can manage your message. So, you need to review what he shared today. Think about how you can implement these specific suggestions and advice both for your message, working with your messengers and creating those right habits, you can start seeing more clarity and are tracking the audience, yet ideal clients, you want to attract. I want to thank you for listening to this version of the Massimo Show. And please, please go out and share this with your friends, your colleagues, share with your dog, just share it. And more importantly, just give me some feedback. Good, better and different. We all grow from undertanding what our audience wants to hear. So until next time, this is Rod Santomassimo with The Massimo Show.
Hi, this is Rod Santomassimo President and founder of the Massimo Group. Did you know that for over the past 11 plus years, we’ve worked with thousands of independent contractors, solopreneurs, and small business owners just like you in repositioning their and/or their team’s efforts so they can build the personal professional practice they’ve always dreamed of. We provide coaching programs for all levels of experience, earnings and, yes, success. So if you’re finally ready to get off that transaction treadmill and chasing deals that are growing nowhere and start building the personal professional business and life consisting of greater wealth and more time, well, check us out at massimo.coach. That’s massimo.coach.
Jim helps leaders and entire organizations to grow by managing the everyday conversations around their businesses through consulting, speaking, training, and coaching.
Jim’s new book The Science of Customer Connections – Manage Your Message to Grow Your Business is scheduled to be released in September 2019.
Download Jim’s Tips on Improving Customer Conversations – Five Roadblocks (and the ways to get around them) from his site.
Tune into Jim’s Manage Your Message Podcast.
- The Message: Choosing the right words, getting the right focus, knowing how to tell a story
- The Messengers: Give people what they need in order to serve as messengers for you
- The Right Habits: How to incorporate your message into your corporate culture