One of my business rules is that I only present new creative solutions in person. I didn't send them by fax machine or FedEx years ago, and I refuse to send them by email or text today.
And yeah, interactive meeting technology such as Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, and Skype can make the back and forth a little more personal. But they still can't replace the advantages of real, old fashioned face-to-face communications.
But every so often, schedules and circumstances conspire and there's just no way to make a deadline and solve a problem without using technology to make a presentation from afar. And, after all, rules WERE meant to be broken weren't they?
So, this time – this ONE time, I promise – I relented and sent the ideas in a PDF. And I asked them to swear not to open the file until I walked them through the presentation.
When I made the presentation, I thought it went pretty well, even though I couldn't tell what my client thought or if they were even following my thinking. Instead of telling me their thoughts right away, they asked for some time to think it over. Then they sent this email:
“Hmmm. We're kind of blown away by this. We have lots to talk about.”
Maybe they knew what their note meant, but I had no idea.
“We're kind of blown away by this.” Is that good or bad?
Without a modifier “We're kind of blown away by this” doesn't communicate any better than the word “quality.” There's high quality and there's low quality. Both phrases use the word “quality” but they don't mean the same thing.
Did they mean, “We're kind of blown away by this. Woo-hoo. Party time!!” Or were they saying, “We're kind of blown away by this. Oh my, we can't use it at all.”?
“We have lots to talk about.”
Again, is that good or bad? Do we have lots of planning to do, lots of great new opportunities to get started on? Or do we have lots to talk about regarding coming up with new ideas or finding a new messaging consultant?
Not being reticent, discreet or even a little patient when it comes to my work, I wrote back:
“Is ‘…kind of blown away by this' a good thing or a bad thing? It's hard to know. What is it we need to talk about?”
Client's answer: “It's a good thing! A very good thing! We love it!! The only bad thing is that you've shown us what a limited view we had of what was possible. Now we're wondering what else we're missing. Excited to move forward. Thank you”
Think about how many times you've answered sincere questions with undecipherable answers:
“How are you feeling?”
Yes, the word “fine” is defined as “superior in kind, quality, or appearance.” But it's usually a knee jerk answer that doesn't suggest a good, neutral or bad reaction. It's just… fine.
What's so odd is that we all know that consumers, clients, and customers inherently value reliability. Yet we communicate in a way that leaves our contacts wondering what we meant.
According to Inc. Magazine, “We want to collect reliable people in our lives. Reliable people get and keep friends more easily, forge deeper relationships, receive the best opportunities, are granted more autonomy at work, have more self-confidence, live with integrity, and carry a clear conscience.”
All of which sound like a really good reason to say what we mean and mean what we say. Both in our personal communications and our marketing.
Seems simple enough to me, what do you think? I hope you're kind of blown away by this.