May 09, 2024

It's A Rule For A Reason

When my CEO required I attend Dale Carnegie sales training classes in 1993, I learned quickly that you should ask questions that the audience will respond to with an important word ... "yes". He encouraged getting the "other side" to start saying "yes" immediately.

Which brings me to this subject line from Best Buy.

I'm not sure I've told you the Dale Carnegie story. I think I have. It was 1993, I've been an analyst for three years at Lands' End, and my salary is stagnant. I'm walking down the hall and I hear a conversation between my boss and the CEO. Like a good gossiper, I stop walking and listen. I hear the CEO say, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Kevin will never be a Manager, he doesn't have a Master's Degree and he's not a good communicator and he doesn't sell his message well."

Yeah, that comment corked me off!

The CEO recommended I take Dale Carnegie sales training ... it's a lot cheaper than trying to earn a Master's Degree at night. He'd pay for it. Sounds good.

There were three things that really stood out in the class.
  1. Always smile.
  2. Always ask people about themselves.
  3. Ask questions or frame comments that cause somebody to say "yes".

It probably took me 20 years to figure out how to smile regularly.

The last point was really important. On the surface it sounds like a simple concept. In practice, it requires a very different style of communication. It requires the presenter to build a story, starting simply and then leading to a conclusion. If you start simple, and earn a "yes", then lead to a more complicated concept and earn a "yes", it's easier to earn a final "yes" when you get to the key point you want to make.

In five years without this information, my salary and bonus increased by about 45% ... not bad.

In the seven years after knowing this formula, my salary and bonus increased by a factor of 8 ... yeah, eight ... and I went from Analyst to Manager to Director to Vice President ... one significant promotion approximately every-other-year.

Turns out I didn't need a Master's Degree.

I just needed to figure out how to frame issues in a way where the audience would say "yes" if I asked the audience if the audience agreed with me.

So, when I see your email subject lines and how awful they position issues, I can't help but wonder why so many of you tell me that email is an old-school technique that doesn't work. If you're asking me if I've been looking for a freezer, you're going to get a NO as a response. Correct, the discipline doesn't work ... as currently being executed.

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