Communication Tips from a Master

Andy Bounds

A couple of years ago a good friend put me onto Andy Bounds. He knew I was into marketing and comms and was always trying to find new ways to better myself. I rarely sign up to newsletters but I trust this friend so I gave Andy’s weekly email a shot. Two or so years on I’m not only still subscribed but I look forward to it!!! Why? Because he gives so much value. He’s knowledgable, he’s a master of his art and he writes in such an actionable way.

When I started to do these blog interviews I was considering who I should approach and he came at the top of my list. How happy I was when he agreed to answer my questions for you. Take time to read these, take time to signup to his ‘Tuesday Tips‘ and if you like all that, take a look at his new online video courses. Let’s begin….

 

1). Andy, you’re an absolute black belt in communications. Why are comms so important to businesses of all sizes?

Because it underpins everything.

 In fact, the only time that communication isn’t relevant is when (1) you’re on your own (2) think of an idea (3) and not tell anybody about it. Ever.

This never happens.

Instead, we spend our lives chatting, emailing, presenting, in meetings, on conference calls, and so on.  So the more successfully we communicate, the more successful we’ll are.


2). I’m sure if we implemented all your strategies we’d all be comms experts but if you had to choose just one to work on today what would it be?

The DO

In other words, my Golden Rule of Communication is…

                  Communication is only effective if people DO something after it.

So emails are only effective if the recipient DID what you wanted her to. Meetings was only effective if people DID some actions as a result of attending.

It sounds obvious.  But people don’t do it.

Instead, they think the purpose of communication is to talk about stuff.

That’s why agendas always end with “Any other business” – which basically means “what other stuff should we talk about?”

So, always end your comms with a request to DO something. For example, in meetings, replace “AOB” with “Actions arising”. That way, they’ll be some actions arising.

And finish emails with “Please can you (do action) by (deadline)” Write this, and they’ll DO something. Don’t; and they won’t.

 

3). I’m sure you’ve worked with some very successful individuals, what traits do you see across these people which any of us can become more disciplined with?

Habits.

All the successful people I’ve met have good work habits.  They relentlessly do the right thing, without thinking.

So, to become successful, you need to get into good habits. This means lots of diary reminders, lots of asking someone – your boss, partner, coach etc – to help you. After all, to change your long-term habits, requires long-term effort.

It’s just like if you want to lose weight.  The only permanent way to do this is to change your eating habits.  Short-term solutions tend to be… well, short-term.  I guess that’s why, every time I hear someone’ss on a de-tox, I’m pretty sure they’ll follow it with a re-tox.

4). For a company starting out, what’s your best advice for how to get out there selling?

Use your existing contacts.

Selling to strangers is very hard.  Selling to people who already know, like and trust you is much easier.

So, list everyone you know and give them two grades of A-C – the first for how much they love you; the second for how able they are to buy from you/introduce you to others.

For example, my children would be (A,C) – they love me but won’t get me any business. However, if my best friend’s CEO of a blue-chip, he’d be (A,A).

Once you’ve done this, contact all your (A,A)s and ask for their help.  They’re your best bet.  They love you, so will want to help.  And have the power to help, so could well buy from you or introduce you to someone who will.

5). Does cold calling really still work?

Not really.

As I said in the previous answer, cold calling means talking to strangers, at a time they didn’t choose, about a topic they didn’t want… the odds of success are pretty low.

And, sad to say, there are loads of irritating firms out there, that give cold calling a bad name. If I get one more call saying “I’m ringing about the accident you were in last week that wasn’t your fault”, I’m going to scream.

6). Do you believe that social media can help within the sales process and if so do you have any nuggets for us on this topic?

It depends.

It can certainly work well for raising awareness.

But, to sell something, you have to persuade someone to give you money.  And you’d have to be very persuasive on social media to make someone think “right, I’m going to give her my money”.

My favourite way to use social media to win sales is to use LinkedIn to help me get introductions.

So, if I want to speak to Mr X in Company Y, I:

  • visit his profile
  • find the list of everyone who both he and I know – our “mutual connections”
  • choose my favourite person from this list
  • contact this person, and ask for a personal introduction to Mr X

Does this raise awareness of my business?  No.

Does it often lead to a warmed-up introduction, that often leads to them buying from me?  Definitely.

7). What do you consider your biggest achievement?

I’m not sure really – I’m blessed to have lots of things I’m proud of.

But, I guess my main one wouldn’t be one individual thing. Instead it would be everything combined – so, what my life’s like now. I have a happy family, who I spend huge amounts of quality time with. A successful international consultancy – which my wife and I started from scratch. The successes my customers have had as a result of using stuff I’ve created. The awards. The books being best-sellers. It’s all lovely…

8). What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and how do you approach failure?

I don’t really like the word ‘mistake’! Do something wrong once – then change as a result – that’s learning. Keep doing something wrong… well, that’s just daft.

Having said that, I was daft about one thing for my first 2-3 years in business…

I used to charge based on time.  So, day rates, hourly rates etc.

But I realised that put me in conflict with the customer.  They wanted quick solutions. But I wanted them to book me for lots of time.

So, I changed to flat fees. This is miles better for everyone. My customers and I both want the same thing – for them to achieve phenomenal results, as quickly as possible.  Great for their business; great for mine.

9). What time are you up in the morning and what time is lights out?

I’m generally up around 5.30am, though I might lie in until 6! Lights out is 9.30pm-10pm.

Simple reason for this – I’m miles better in the morning. I love getting loads of stuff done before 9am, when most people are starting their work, and need me for stuff.


10). Do you set any sort of goals, personal or business?

Yes, of course.

I like to keep things pretty simple.  So, each year, I have:

  • an annual holiday target of X days
  • a personal development target of Y; and
  • a turnover target of £Z

There are lots of other things that support achieving these. But, ultimately, if I nail all three, I’m really happy.


11). How do you deal with your email inbox? Is there really such a thing as inbox zero?

I love my inbox!

It’s virtually always empty. And I work very hard to make sure it stays that way.

There are two ways to reduce your inbox – send less emails; and be better with the ones you receive.

So, I tend to phone first, agree things verbally and then – if necessary – bang over a quick email to confirm.

And with emails I receive, I only read them once.  As soon as I have done, I’ll respond, delete, delegate, or diarise to do it another day… and then take it out of my inbox.  That way, my inbox always stays very empty.  And I love it.

12). Do you manage to find a good work-life balance and has that always been the case?

As I said before, I’m pretty good at this now.

It hasn’t always been the case. But, as I’ve become more successful and comfortable in myself, I’ve become much better at saying yes/no to things, and being happy with my decision.

I don’t think two things – ‘worklife’ and ‘homelife’. I have one thing – my life. And it has got to be amazing.  So everything has to work in harmony together, to make sure that it is.


13). What would you tell your 21 year old self?

To rejoice in the fact you’ve gone bald early.

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You can find Andy’s website at: https://www.andybounds.com/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/andy_bounds

And don’t forget his new video course platform: https://andyboundsonline.com/

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