Here’s an actual transcription of a Voicemail message I received yesterday

Good Morning, Jim. My name is Matt. I’m calling from Northern Virginia. I had spoken with Kevin from the Fairfax office, and he directed me to you. I was referred to Vision Point a few weeks ago. It was actually regarding a couple questions that I had.  I wanted to follow up with the Blacksburg . He said that would probably help a little more versus the Fairfax office so if you can give me a call back, my number is…

Naturally, the suspense was killing me.

I called him back later that afternoon.

Matt: This is Matt.

Me: Hi, This is Jim, you left me a message. How can I help?

Matt: Oh, Hi Jim. Thanks for calling back. I had a few questions. I ran into Vision Point a few weeks ago at a networking event.

Me: I see. Are you wanting to buy something from us or are you trying to sell us something?

Matt: We’re a hosted Voice-Over-IP provider.

Me: I see. So do you do like SIP Trunks or a hosted PBX-type thing?

Matt: All of our data is in the cloud, on the same network as 80% of all the traffic on the east coast.

Me: I still don’t follow. What business problem of mine are you trying to solve?

Matt: Oh, you can have your phone system hosted by us, and if your building burns down, your phone system will still work.

Me: Ah, I get it.

Oh boy. What a disaster. We’re not in the market for that type of thing right now, so we agreed to part ways, but this was an eye-opening event. First, some people just shouldn’t be doing sales. Second, If you can’t just come out and say what you’re trying to sell and how it will help me, then your business has a problem.

My business isn’t the shining example of marketing brilliance (yet), but at least we don’t make cold calls. 2011 is a year of marketing focus for us, and this event is going to be in the back of my mind the whole time as we are formulating our pitch and sales process. We’ve got some exciting new stuff coming up. I apologize for my silence.

I just got off a massive conference call  for a client with 20+ other people. It’s noteworthy to me that calls like this take place, especially when the 20 people come from 20 different departments. It’s also understandable that people might be annoyed when pulled from their daily routine for a call regarding a unique event that’s about to happen that they may have a very minor role in. The main facilitator for this particular call is a co-consultant from another vendor. He about got ripped to shreds by the more senior people on the call for things like pausing to take notes or simply just taking a while to get around to the point of his questions. Poor Guy. I might be tempted to say that these types of meetings can be evened out with detailed objective documentation. This guy took it too far in that regard as well. He sends out documents multiple times a day with filenames about 150 characters long. Emails go to 25 people with all the thread history embedded in the message. The documents themselves are just list on list on list… I’m on the fringe of involvement myself. I’m annoyed – not to the point of being hostile – but I certainly wish I could ignore what’s going on.

This type of situation makes me reflect on my own communication style, and the general communication style we coach in my company. I’ve come up with these insights:

  • Meetings should be for the benefit of those participating. If an attendee won’t be directly acting based on the entirety of the topic discussed or won’t be expected to raise questions or concerns about the overll topic, they probably don’t need to be in the meeting. Side meetings or email conversations can extract a lot of information that can be recorded and reported by a central moderator.
  • When speaking, be clear about who you are speaking to and end every comment with a directive or question.
  • Summary documents are useful, but only when action items or outliers are clearly identified. I think a stoplight solution is great way to show what is at risk.
  • If you, as a facilitator, have concerns, it is best to approach the owner of those items offline first instead of the public forum.
  • The telephone is still a useful tool.
  • A picture is worth a 1000 words. I love Visio diagrams to show relationships. Nothing says “This is where the failure point is going to be” better than a big red X on a flow chart or system diagram.
  • Don’t impose your organization methods on everyone else. If you feel you need to catalog every email, do it in a way that will not clutter everyone else’s email box with superfluous subject lines, etc
  • Most people are smart, just busy.

Just some thoughts. Hopefully they are good reminders.