How to communicate and get what you need from decision makers

Sense Making

I learned of a technique in a training session given to Yammer Sales and Customer Success Management (CSM) staff in 2012. The technique adopts an approach for emailing someone, typically for the first time, that you are keen to get something from – essentially you would be cold calling them. We called the technique “the Hoff mail” after the person who taught it to us – see link below. The person being contacted is also typically senior and difficult to get hold of. They will have many people contacting them and have limited attention so the Hoff mail is first and foremost intended to be impactful and to the point. It is also often a first step in achieving an ultimate outcome, for instance, closing a sales deal but starting with agreement on a first meeting or call perhaps. Or it could be to get a commitment to do something or provide some key information like a use case need, etc. A CSM could also use it to branch out of existing relationships if they are being single threaded or stuck in IT (so building relationships with business decision maker’s). The key principles can be applied to communications means beyond email, e.g. LinkedIn, etc.

The training was provided by http://www.mjhoffman.com/

THE MAIN CONSTRUCTS:

  • Sentence 1 is a specific reference to the person or company that makes your “ask” relevant
  • Sentence 2 is the connection to your company / solution
  • Sentence 3 is the close or what you are asking for

THE COMPELLING “CLOSE”:

  • Something you want
  • Easy to Deliver
  • Open-ended questions only

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • Don’t include links in prospecting emails. The Idea is to get their attention, not to sell them on the first email
  • Don’t make mention of your name or company in the beginning of the email
  • Do not make reference to failed attempts at outreach
  • DO NOT use “tell me about your business” or make any reference that you don’t know about theirs
  • DO reference how our customers are gaining value from Yammer. People are far more interested in what our customers have in common vs you
  • TRY KEEP EMAILS IN THE SHAPE OF AN “F”: The first sentence is longer than the second which is longer than the third and closing sentence.
  • Subject line could be a shortened version of Sentence #1. It has to be relevant
  • Most likely be read on a iPhone

ADDITIONAL READING:


Example provided by Jeff Hoffman:

Hello …, 

I saw that ACS was named to Training Outsourcing’s annual top 20 list, and I was inspired to email you directly. I found your approach to learning and education refreshing.

We offer a revolutionary approach to sales training based on sales efficiency and pipeline management. Some of our notable clients include SAP, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, Forrester Research, and Akamai Technologies. 

Who do you recommend that we contact at ACS to introduce our programs?

Best regards, 


Example of what has worked for me:

Dear …,

As (customer name) have invested substantially in Office 365 technologies, I have been assigned to your business as a global specialist based in London, to ensure you derive maximum value from the technologies for your users and the business. 

I have experience with (industry) across EMEA and will be in (location) 23-27 November. I typically engage with customers to support roll-out of the technologies in digital innovation initiatives.

Can you and your team be available on the morning of the 24th as well as for calls beforehand to start preparing? 

Warm regards, …

#help #workingoutloud

Welcome and pointers

Sense Making

@ragnarheil welcome to this site :) Just want to let you know that you can mention users in this site in the standard way using the @ symbol and user name. You should receive a notification from this post. And this way we can work together and out loud #workingoutloud :)

As you can see you can also use hashtags which are standard WordPress tags in this live editor. Find out more about how to use this site here: https://wordpress.com/themes/p2-breathe/

And I’ll add this post to the Sense Making category under the #help tag because that is where it fits as per initial structure below. Let me know if you have any queries :)

categories and tags

Hackathons as a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation

Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

In my time at Yammer first then Microsoft, I worked with customers to devise a program for running innovation hackathons. It considers more than just the 24 hour period typical for hackathons. The “pre” and “post” of hackathons is as important. Activity should start long before the 24 hour period and carry on long after.

It also incorporates a social platform like Yammer for supporting activities but you could adopt any. I’ve helped customers with global hackathons covering geographically dispersed teams. With something like Yammer you don’t all need to be together in one place at a set time for the pre and post work and ideas and innovation are given the time they need.

At Microsoft we went further than just the 24 hours. We dedicated an entire week to hacking and had a custom built platform that supported the ideation and team forming side far ahead of the week. Yammer groups were used in conjunction to the formal idea management side of things.

The full monty hackathon

I captured the approach of using something like Yammer in this diagram below for a full blown, longer term program. It also covers important elements like communication and involvement from others in the organisation. I’ve provided some additional detail following the diagram.

Innovation process flow

Based on work done with a large UK based retail customer – see also diagram for basic description.

Core concepts

  • Consolidate info into notes
  • Keep momentum by posting summaries
  • Continuous process of idea generation/team formation

Phase 1 – Ideation

  • A single main group is created and designated for idea creation
  • People post ideas in the group starting a thread
  • Topics (or hashtag in the text input field itself) can be applied to ideas to make it easy to distinguish between and track idea conversations, e.g #idea-descriptor (where descriptor relates specifically to the idea subject)
  • The organizer collects useful ideas into an Ideas Note making it easier to track all ideas in one place
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers post a summary of the most interesting ideas or the ideas that have generated more feedback
  • End of phase: all ideas are self selected for moving onto the next phase (number of likes and comments could be an indicator of an ideas popularity)

Phase 2 – Forming

  • People that have decided to progress ideas should make clear who they are and these should be logged in a Note in the main group
  • Teams can be formed around these ideas in the Note by simply having people names linked to the idea in the Note
  • For each team, you can have:
    • Summary of the idea
    • Members
    • Link to the group (see next point)
  • People create a group for each team and idea
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers posts a summary of the most interesting stuff happening inside groups to the main Globe’athon group
  • End of phase: Ideas could be progressed in conversations and Notes but at the end of the phase idea teams could be asked to summarise and answer some key questions around there idea using a template as a guide (see Example criteria for an idea qualification template below)

Phase 3 – Developing

  • The main group is now used again for collaboration and information sharing around the day of the event
  • The organisers/community managers make sure to spread messages out to observing parties and capture activities in the group from those happening offline
    • Pictures
    • Videos
    • Examples of collaboration
    • The winners

Example criteria for an idea qualification template

  • Have you considered all the advantages or benefits of the idea? Is there a real need for it?
  • Have you pinpointed the exact problems or difficulties your idea is expected to solve?
  • Is your idea an original, new concept, or is it a new combination or adaptation?
  • What immediate or short-range gains or results can be anticipated? Are the projected returns adequate? Are the risk factors acceptable?
  • What long-range benefits can be anticipated?
  • Have you checked the idea for faults or limitations?
  • Are there any problems the idea might create? What are the changes involved?
  • How simple or complex is going to be the idea’s execution or implementation?
  • Could you work out several variations of the idea? Could you offer alternative ideas?
  • How soon could the idea be put into operation?

I’ve tried to capture this whole approach a little more richly with this video :)

Instant hackathon – a no frills approach

This is the format you can follow to run a hackathon in a two to three hour period without any prior preparation and effort by participants. I’ve used this approach with team members on a one or two day retreat.

Format

  1. Distribute: Hand out paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five minutes to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.
  2. Self-edit: Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites. Individually. Quietly.
  3. Share and capture: One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on. As you go, one person writes everybody’s ideas on the whiteboard.
  4. Vote: Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. You must commit your vote to paper.
  5. Share and capture: One at a time, each person says their vote. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no changing your vote! Say what you wrote. Write the votes on the whiteboard. Dots work well.
  6. Decide: Who is the decider? Decider should make the final call—not the group. Decider can choose to respect the votes or not. This is less awkward than it sounds: instead of dancing around people’s opinions and feelings, you’ve made the mechanics plain. Everyone’s voice was heard. Three ideas must be chosen.
  7. Rejoice (that only took 15 minutes :)
  8. Hack: Top three ideas are worked on for 2-3 hour period including pitch
  9. Pitch: Outcomes presented and one or more are chosen for further work after the session (or not)

Guidance

  • Teams: Are groups of 3-5 people
  • Optional themes: Productivity Saving, Enhancing Customer Experience, Increasing Consumption, Better Product, Events, Blogging, Data hacks, Partners Stuff, Increasing Business Value, Use Cases
  • Scope: Business Hacks (No coding required!)
  • Bonus points for hacks that Ship!!!

Variations

  • Do steps 1 and 2 as an interactive session where people shout out their ideas and then collectively develop them.
  • Steps 1 and 2 as a walking session if you need some exercise during the day (needs a little more time). Capture and vote is then done as a plenary exercise. Hacking can in theory be done on the move as well but capturing the essence will require some work.

Further reading

I think hackathons, if done right, can be a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation. I’m not the only one. Below are some links to interesting articles of how others are adopting the approach:

Proposed outline for interviews

Sense Making

This is some high level thinking on the types of interviewees being sought and questions that would be asked. The purpose is to gather feedback from practitioners that can be used in the trend report – more here. This is a work in progress and will change based on feedback (comments welcome :) and progress on actual interviews.

Target interviewees and example initiatives being explored

  • People running initiatives inside large organisations that focus on driving innovation or have an expressed and strategic interest in innovation (like senior executives)
  • People in startups that have experience working with large organisations to help them drive innovation or deliver new products and services.
  • People that have created and launched new products or services or been responsible for delivering them inside large organisations. This could include people from startups that were acquired and successfully assimilated into the organisation.
  • Initiatives could be standalone units inside large organisations that work with employees and outside suppliers or individuals (ideally startups) to drive innovation and new product or service creation and delivery
  • Initiatives could be regular events and activities intended to stimulate innovation and/or new product/service creation and delivery
  • Initiatives could be strategic programs to help reorient the organisational culture to be more innovative and intrapreneurial

Themes being explored and question examples

  1. Please describe briefly your role and its context in terms of the industry and purpose of your organisation
  2. What is your view about innovation and the role the entrepreneur plays in this?
  3. Can you describe in detail what work you do and outcomes you drive?
  4. Can you explain the methods and approaches you adopt that work and you would recommend to others?
  5. What do you think the future holds for innovation, both from an individual and organisational perspective and in the context of entrepreneurship

Other interview considerations

  • Target interview duration is 20 minutes or responses can be gathered by questionnaire, email or other means
  • Responses will be used in the book and will be quoted by person/organisation – is it okay to use the responses verbatim or is approval required beforehand?

#help

@intrapreneurtrends < woohooooo love it, you can even @ mention users on this site (as long as they are users that have been created in this site, e.g. I cannot @ mention other users on wordpress.com). Here I @ mentioned myself as a test.

You can even use hashtags when you create a post as I have done below (these get created as tags that link posts with the same tag).

In both cases you get auto suggestions of users that are in the system or hashtags already used.

#help

Sense Making

Publishing in the conversations section of this site

Sense Making

conversation editor

This is what it looks like above but its only visible to users logged into the site. It’s awesomely flexible and super quick – it updates without having to refresh the page. Just like on Facebook for instance. It has some rich text options and you can add easily add images, links and code even.

I love this theme which comes from WordPress and they actually use if for internal collaboration – more here: http://p2theme.com/

More detail on the theme functions here (although I haven’t activated all of the options yet – like ToDo posts which I may do later): https://wordpress.com/themes/p2-breathe/

#help