Guest Blog From Joseph Michelli: “Can You Communicate Too Much in Crisis?”

NOTE: You will benefit greatly from this guest post from Joseph Michelli, a global “customer experience” expert, who shares what he learned by talking with scores of business leaders about the role of communication during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Can You Communicate Too Much in Crisis?

Conventional wisdom says you can “never communicate too much” – especially in a crisis. Then again, author and economist Steven Levitt observed “conventional wisdom” is often wrong.

So, what do you think? Is there such a thing as too much communication?

At the pandemic’s onset, I served on C-suite taskforces for my clients (as leadership teams sought to navigate unfolding disruptions and uncertainty). As I observed leaders take very different approaches to communication cadence, transparency, innovation, and strategy, I began asking those leaders about the lessons they were learning or affirming in the context of the most significant leadership challenge of our time.

Discussions with my clients led to referrals of their colleagues. Within months, I had engaged conversations with more than 140 CEOs and senior leaders from for-profits, nonprofits, and public safety organizations. These leaders included CEOs and presidents of brands like Target, Farmers Insurance, Microsoft, Logitech, International Dairy Queen, Verizon, and Kohls. Those conversations, in turn, are the basis for my soon to be released McGraw-Hill book titled Stronger Through Adversity. https://www.josephmichelli.com/stronger-through-adversity/

As it relates to whether you can communicate too much, Linda Rutherford, Senior Vice President and Chief Communication Officer for Southwest Airlines, provided a representative response. Linda, a cutting-edge thinker and extraordinary practitioner in areas of leadership communication and crisis specific messaging, noted, “In times of crisis, people get anxious and crave information. So not only do we need to communicate more often, we must do it in a multi-channel way and be inclusive. At Southwest, that means engaging a variety of voices starting with our CEO.”

While noting the importance of increased communication, Linda cautioned against cluttered and haphazard messaging. Specifically, she shared, “If you aren’t organized, you can easily create confusion and distrust through your messaging. That distrust can escalate quickly, given how fast information changes. All communications must be aligned. Marketing, operations, and your communication teams need to stay in sync as they coordinate messages to their respective groups—customers, the media, and employees. That aligned messaging is something we work on 24 hours a day. Collaboratively, we are looking at each new communication to make sure it is purposeful, well-timed, congruent, and relevant for the audience to which it is directed.”

Concerning inclusivity, leaders like Linda recommended involving team members from diverse perspectives to write, edit, and present text-based, videotaped, and live communications. They also recommended being sensitive to gender references or binary she/he pronouns. They emphasized the importance of evaluating and rooting out unconscious bias from messages. Those biases are often associated with race, ethnicity, nationality, age, socioeconomic background, or religion.

From my assessment, the answer to the question, “can you communicate too much?” is a qualified “yes.” However, you will likely communicate too little during a crisis. It’s critical to listen for understanding and with empathy, especially during crises. Similarly, you must share information, provide updates, and check-in on your people and customers. That said, we shouldn’t communicate merely to comply with a schedule. As my momma would say, “you have two ears and one mouth, know when and why to use them.” She also suggested I should use them proportionally.

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Matthew Lampros: George Carlin’s Sales Advice

Super Hero
Super Hero

Are your sales slumping? Do you wonder why prospects you consider “sure things” won’t buy your product or service, though they heard your presentation? Want to dramatically increase your closing rate? Then change your perspective, as widely respected Sales Coach Matthew Lampros explains:

If you’re driving slower than me you’re a dullard; faster and you’re a psychopath.

I’ve known Bill Lampton for several years now. I’d say our relationship has been close. I decided I wanted to get to know him better after watching him in action at a seminar held by one of my clients. He was a fantastic presenter, orator, and especially a teacher. I knew I could learn a lot from him. Since then I’ve read his book, ‘The Complete Communicator,’ watched many of his presentations, followed his BLOG, and had the privilege to have several great conversations with him – including one on my weekend radio show where he was the guest.

I was very honored when Bill asked me to write a guest column for his BLOG. I have a lot to say about a lot of things (so goes the criticism I commonly hear) but as I pondered what topic I would write about for this article, I recalled an old George Carlin joke that goes something like this, “Really, how self-absorbed are we? Did you ever notice that everyone driving slower than you is a moron and anyone driving faster is crazy?”

In an odd way that joke sums up a lot of what I have learned from Bill over the past four years:

* Put yourself in the other persons’ shoes; understand where they are coming from.
* Relate your presentation to their company, their city, their world.
* If you’re going to be a complete communicator, you have to start by looking at things from their perspective.
* Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
* You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – that’s the correct proportion for communicating.

At any given time, I’m driving too fast, or too slow, or too close or too far for the person behind me. But, really, am I doing it wrong just because I’m not doing it the way you are?

I’m a sales coach by profession. I spend my days teaching high-earning sales people and CEO’s the nuances of the most successful sales professionals. Getting to know Bill and understanding one of his basic philosophies about communication has helped me be a better teacher and a better salesperson. The single biggest mistake any CEO, entrepreneur or sales person makes (when it comes to driving revenue) is an assumption they know what is best for their prospects. “No, no, you’re doing that all wrong. You need to use this widget – that’s the way you should do it…” so goes the thinking. But that sounds a lot like the Carlin joke, doesn’t it?

Maybe I’m driving too slow, or too close for a reason. OR maybe I’m doing it because I need a good lesson in safe vehicle operation. Maybe your customers haven’t signed the contract because they have a legitimate reason, OR maybe it really is because they don’t quite get it yet. Bill has helped me to hone in on this truth. My research has found that up to 60% of sales that could have closed do not, simply because you don’t stand in their shoes. They don’t see what you see because you aren’t guiding them there – and so they don’t buy.

Specifically the research has found that it takes a prospect, on average, SIX TIMES LONGER to see the benefit of your product/solution than it takes you. Why? Because, you look at their situation and immediately see that you can improve it but:

* You are an expert at solving that problem, they are not. So they don’t see it as quickly. If they could see it as clearly as you they wouldn’t have the problem and you’d be out of business.
* You are too used to jumping to the solution and are likely missing a few nuances that only communication will help you uncover. Be sure to really make sure you understand their “illness” before you “prescribe” a solution. (Ever been to a doctor that won’t hear you and, gives you a prescription and sends you on the way so he can get to the next patient? Frustrating isn’t it?)
* They don’t trust you (yet) because you’ve not indicated to them you really understand where they are coming from – you’re just jumping to the solution.

Hopefully that is connecting: in most cases they need what you have, but they don’t see it your way … so they don’t buy. Stand in their shoes. Walk them towards the solution from where THEY are standing.

The next time you are working with a prospect you know would be a great customer remember Bill Lampton, remember to empathize with their current situation, and remember George Carlin’s joke about our self-important nature … and then you’ll close more deals!

Matthew Lampros is a sales coach and time management expert based in Salt Lake City, UT. He is an advocate of “get your hands dirty” methods for finding, getting, and keeping customers. You can follow his BLOG at www.SalesWings.com or reach him directly (anytime) at 888 99 QUOTA.

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