Monday, 24 September 2012

Nick Clegg eats his words and is made to sing them - Selling the Sorry word is hard

To err is human.
 All of us in selling make mistakes from time to time. We say things we regret and make promises to clients with the best of intentions and then......
 So learning to apologise both for our individual mistakes and  (where appropriate) on behalf of our team, is important if we are to earn and sustain the trust of our customers.
It is also critical what our choice of words are, and how they are conveyed .
Our words maybe not as scrutinised as the politicians manifesto, but because their mistakes are covered in the media perhaps we can learn from their communication successes and failures.
In our selling work we may never be  so exposed as Liberal Party Leader Nick Clegg has been in the last few days but I guess we can learn from political leaders about their use of words to their customers ( from party members to the voters) - whether we think they do so effectively or ineffectively.
 The Deputy leader of the Coalition Government  not only had to 'eat his words' ( on the student tuition fees pre- election pledge) but has been 'made' to sing his words by the You Tube community and  with a record riding high in the download music charts.

"Of course people are going to sneer, mock and say it is not good enough. I just genuinely thought what we did was wrong and I should apologise for it.I just hope that reasonable people - whether they have heard it to music or not - will think OK, fair enough, he's come clean"      
Interview with The Independent Newspaper

 Nick Clegg's Sorry Song by the Poke and Alec Ross
Of course the dilemma of when , how or whether to apologise is not just wrestled with here by politicians in Europe.
In the current US Presidential campaign Mitt Romney has criticised President Barack Obama's apology

"I think it is a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values," Romney said of the statement issued by the embassy in Cairo that condemned the anti-Islam video that fomented protests outside the compound”

Frank Luntz the pollster / communications specialist and adviser on political campaigns is worth reading. He analyses how words are received by voters.
Frank Luntz  Eleven key phrases 2011

Frank Luntz has eleven phrases that he states matter most in business, politics, the media and culture.

Here are his selection of phrases plus his explanation of their power. They are American examples but I think the principle translates well enough for UK.

Sales Directors / managers could substitute 'voters' with 'sales force' and Salespeople could replace 'voters' with 'customers' and equally adopt and adapt these phrases in their work.
’Imagine’ is still the most powerful word in the English language because it is inspiring, motivating, and has a unique definition for each person.
’No excuses. Of all the messages used by America’s business and political elite, no phrase better conveys accountability, responsibility and transparency.

’I get it.’ This explains not only a complete understanding of the situation but also a willingness to solve or resolve the situation. It’s short, sweet and effective.
’If you remember only one thing…’ is the surest way to guarantee that voters will remember the one point that matters most to you. This is essential in complicated situations like the upcoming debt ceiling vote.
’Uncompromising integrity.’ Of all the 'truth' words, none is as powerful as ‘integrity,’ but in today’s cynical environment, even that’s not enough. People also need to feel that your integrity is absolute. ( Is this what Nick Clegg is addressing ?)
’The simple truth’ comes straight from billionaire businessman Steve Wynn, and it sets the context for a straightforward discussion that might otherwise be confusing or contentious.
’Believe in better’ comes from BSkyB, the satellite television provider owned in part by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. empire. Of all the corporate mission statements of the Fortune 100, ‘believe in better’ is the second-most popular — and it applies to politics as well.

’Real-time.’ This is not a pitch for Bill Maher. Many Americans were furious that they couldn’t get the details of the health-care legislation in a timely fashion. ‘Real-time’ communicates receiving information at the speed of life.
’You decide.’ No, this is not paying homage to Fox News. The lesson of 2010 is that Americans want control of their lives back and they don’t want Washington or Wall Street making their decisions for them.
’You deserve.’ This comes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and it was first employed by him in his highly praised 2006 SOTU response. It tells voters exactly what they should expect from their politicians and their government.

 ‘Let’s get to work’ was employed by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) in his successful campaign. No other end-of-speech rallying cry is more motivational to voters.

As the speeches during the UK Political party season this autumn are broadcast, it might be interesting to see how many of the above are used in the Party Conferences in Brighton , Manchester and Birmingham.

And subsequent Sales Conferences for that matter !

Some books worth reading around the subject of "words and communication"

Words that work                 Frank Luntz              Hyperion       ISBN  1-4013-0308-0
It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear           2007  

Drop the Pink Elephant    Bill McFarlan                Capstone       ISBN 1-84112-479-6

21 steps to personal communication heaven     2003

Unspeak                               Steven Poole            Little Brown    ISBN 0-316-73100-5

Mode of speech that persuades by stealth         2006

Related links

 Click for post on effective use of your voice in business presentations

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