Posts Tagged ‘free.keynote’

Are you aligning with customer expectations?

February 5, 2012

Fair or unfair everyone sets expectations of people they meet in business and or life.  Expectations are influenced by corporate title, education, industry association, family ties and many other things.  My point is before you and I ever meet there’s a pretty good chance I already have an expectation of what I expect our relationship might be like.

Working with Microsoft I saw first hand how quickly expectations were set.   I quickly became a Canadian thought leader not because I was brilliant but because people set expectations through my connection to Microsoft.  I became brilliant through association.  The challenge was I needed to live up to a very tall order!

Today because of my active coaching schedule I meet many senior executives who I have set high expectations for long before they ever meet me.  I expect marketing execs to be pretty darn brilliant at communicating their worth.  I expect CEO’s and VPs to have a clear strategy about how they are going to lead their people (and more importantly themselves) in doing great things.  I expect sales reps to be doing deals regardless of the economy because they are deal makers (not order takers) and be very clear deal makers create opportunity when little exists.

So honestly I am a little disappointed in the world today because it seems many have forgotten about the expectations they need to be living up to.  It’s almost like they feel greatness is owing to them so just bring it on.

Customer Testimonial
“Curt, our managers needed to hear your message!  It gave them a great sense that they can be competitive in this marketplace.  Almost everyone said they felt well armed to tackle their duties thanks to the rapid fire ideas you gave them.  I personally thought your mix of humour and straight shooting made this session fly by in a positive and enlightening way.” – V.P. Caressant Care

Now I am writing this because I am passionate about helping you do great things and the best way I can help you is by aligning your world with the expectations people have for you.  This month I need you to ask a really tough question and that is, are you aligned with your customer’s expectations?  Are you exceeding the great things people already expect of you, if not what needs to change immediately?

I want you to have fun with this question because investing in your future will reap you more pleasure than pain.  Ask, do you need to be investing in new intellect because the world is evolving so quickly?  Do you need to be pushing the envelope in your thinking because traditional thoughts will quickly go unnoticed?  Do you need to be upping your game because walking to opportunity is the kiss of death when you are running a race that is only going to get faster?

You may as well face it, we all set expectations for others and they set them for us.  The secret to success is exceeding those expectations well before the benchmark is ever set.  I am not exempt from this rant.  I have things I need to be doing right now to deliver greatness on the stage because clients expect me to be a great speaker.  So I am off to ponder what I need to do and put on socks because apparently, so I have been told, my clients expect that too!

Looking for a Great Keynote for your next event?
Curt Skene delivers over 75 rapid-fire insights on how to find more business and create more opportunity in his fun and informative keynote “Master  The Marketplace!” Visit


Second Best Also Deserves A Chance!

January 24, 2012

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to meet Canadian Olympic rower Alison Korn. I remember asking her, “What was it like to row in the Olympics?”  She said, “It’s funny, even though we practiced for years, we never found the passion and energy until we saw the finish line.  But when we knew that we were one thousand metres from the finish line and all that we had worked for would be lost, we found more passion and energy than we ever thought possible.”

I remember that race. They went from fourth to second and narrowly missed winning the Gold.  Why is it that teams who have struggled the entire game monopolize the final five minutes?  How come they couldn’t figure it out for the first fifty-five?  It’s because they didn’t see their finish line.  Professional athletes need the clarity and finality that the finish line provides them.  A finish line is that point of no return that you can shoot for.

In our world, the goal is to attract and keep great people, but I find myself wondering:  are we giving our employees a clear target to shoot for? In essence, do our employees know what it means to be great?  Do they know what the expectations are and do we give them the room to exceed them?  Maybe instead of attracting great employees we need to be focusing our attention to grooming great employees.

“Congratulations! Your keynote was a great hit.  Out of 8 speakers your reviews clearly defined you as the highlight.”
Ms. Laurie Campbell, Conference Chair, E2E Conference

Basically, I believe there are three types of employees out there.  There are those who get it, those who want to get it, and those who are there just for the ride.  For the employees who get it, their abilities are natural, their skills are instinctive and our role is to clear any obstacles and stand out of their way.  On the other end, for the employee who is just there for the ride, our role is to prompt, prod and motivate but quite frankly I seldom, if ever, have seen these people turn into our star performers.  So this leaves us the middle, the employees that want to get it but just can’t do it on their own.  I believe we need to spend most of our time working with them.  These are the employees who want to make a significant contribution, who want to overachieve but for whom it just isn’t as instinctive for whatever reason.  This is where I believe you can find real gold!

As managers, I think one of the things we do to confuse employees is have them chasing too many targets. Sure, we create goals and objectives, but over the year we let too many other “priority one” initiatives land on their plate.  Am I the only one who has had a boss that believed everything in the business was priority one?  In the end, we water down our potential performers by having them focus on way too much.  If we want peak performance we have to give them the clarity of a finish line and remove many of the other distractions.

Another challenge I find in managing this middle tier is confidence.  Quite often they have the skills but lack the confidence to go out and take self directed action.  They are often waiting or seeking approval.  One of the best things you can do is encourage them to take a risk.  Encourage them to step out on their own and take the initiative.  Encourage them to think and do what’s best for the business.  Because this group is naturally risk adverse, you will seldom see them take on too much risk.

Finally, you need to consider the team dynamics.  Are you giving as much publicity and promotion to this middle group?  I often find that, in most organizations, all of the attention goes to the “stars,” the ones at the top.  The problem is you end up alienating others along the way.  Our role in coaching peak performance is in balancing the amount of attention and promotion we give.

Think about the roles and expectations you have defined for others.  While they may appear clear to us, remember it doesn’t come as easily and naturally for everyone.  Give more guidance on what it takes to overachieve.  Also, try taking the time to segment your team and focus more attention on the employees in that valuable middle group.  In the end, their contribution will be invaluable.  Remember that every company needs a balance of performers.  While it’s important to attract and keep great employees, it’s also critical that we groom and coach new ones.

We need our stars. But we also need our second and third stringers.  In fact, if you think about it, the teams that win championships are often the ones where there is less focus and expectation on the stars and more emphasis on developing the team.

Curt Skene is a professional business speaker, sales trainer, and certified hypnotist who specializes in helping companies look at their business, their relationship with their customers and their future opportunities in a powerful and positive light. Curt offers over 75 rapid-fire insights based on over 20 years of award-winning business experience (Microsoft, ExecuTrain and BrainBuzz) and combines his experience with the kowledge he has gained as a certified hypnosis/NLP practitioner.  Find out more at

Where do you struggle most?

October 25, 2009

Over the last few months I have been working a lot with Pitney Bowes helping them train their sales force. After one of these sessions Kevin Fancy, Pitney Bowes Vice President, came to speak to his team and he asked them where do they struggle the most?” His point was, “If you really want to make great strides in your business then master your weakness.”

So when you think about all the things you need to do in order for you to “Master your Marketplace” where do you struggle the most? Is it time management, selling, networking, organizational skills or follow up? Whatever it is I want you to pick the one thing that is your real nemesis and make a commitment to make it your strength. Commit yourself to become absolutely brilliant at it. Invest the time, the energy and dedication to making this weakness your greatest ally. Kevin spoke about how his organizational skills used to be a real challenge for him so he became obsessed with being brilliant at it. Now, today if you walk into his office it’s almost scary, everything is neat, organized and he is a man who is on top of his business… and it shows!

Too often we can find ourselves falling back on the excuse that we simply can’t change. Well, that’s not true, you can change if and when you really want to.

If I were to ask you how much business you’ve lost because of your weakness, what would your answer be? Would it be 10, 20, 30%? When I think about my own personal experience I bet you I could double my business.

Now you may have heard others say that you should simply delegate the stuff that you are lousy at and that’s a valid option too. However I believe there are certain skills that each of us have to take personal responsibility for. So, in this exercise I am really focused on challenging you to improve one of the core competencies that every successful business professional needs to have. You can’t always delegate someone to return all of your calls, ensure you are on time, treat customers nicer or dress you properly. That was Kevin’s point. We all need to take some of this responsibility ourself.

This month my personal challenge is I am going to become brilliant at generating leads for my business. My partner, Steve White, commits to a minimum of one client meeting everyday that he is not billable. Adopting his strategy will surely help me grow my leads. If you have other suggestions that might help I would appreciate hearing from you.

Make a commitment this month to pick one thing that you need to improve upon and make it your strength. Seek out guidance from others you admire, make it a topic of conversation when you are out for lunch, do whatever it takes to change your current behaviour. The process may be painful but I guarantee that the business you generate will surely help to ease that pain!

Curt Skene is an inspiring Canadian professional business keynote speaker, sales trainer, and certified hypnotist who specializes in helping companies and associations look at their business, their relationship with their customers and their future opportunities in a powerful and positive light. Curt offers over 75 rapid-fire insights based on over 20 years of award-winning business experience (Microsoft, ExecuTrain and BrainBuzz) and combines his experience with the kowledge he has gained as a certified hypnosis/NLP practitioner.  Find out how easy and affordable it is to hire Curt Skene by going to his website at

Do customers really buy price?

October 18, 2009

buy_priceI am often told that customers buy based on price and to some extent there may be some truth to that rumour, but study after study tells me customers buy confidence, selection, features long before they look at price. I want you to seriously consider the following in your own life:
When you buy a house do you buy the cheapest one or do things like location, neighbourhood and “built in” features play a major role in your decision?
When you buy a car do you buy the cheapest one or does service, style, size, and efficiency play a role in your decision?

When you buy formal clothes (i.e. suit or dress) do you buy the cheapest on the market or do fashion, fit and brand play a major role in your decision?
When you buy any product do you buy the “absolute cheapest” on the market or do you think that the cheapest is often a statement inherent quality?

Actually cars are a funny one because there are many people who own two cars yet they leave one in the driveway all day as they take the bus/subway to work. My point is, I don’t believe you and I buy based on price and neither do our customers. I believe there are two reasons why our customers buy based on price

They don’t have any attachment with the decision therefore they don’t care about the outcome.
You didn’t give them sufficient enough emotional reason to buy specifically from you.

When customers don’t care about the decision that usually indicates that they have nothing vested in the outcome. That is why purchasing departments are often difficult to deal with (or the boss who has nothing to do with the product/service being purchased). When dealing with these people ask what would they care about and then sell specifically to that. If you don’t get them involved in wanting to be part of the outcome then YES you may have to become the lowest priced on the market to win the business.

The two emotions that drive almost every buying decision is DESIRE and FEAR. Customers care about being recognized, admired, having a sense of belonging or they care about making a safe, secure, smart decision. If you listen to what they say you will hear where their emotional connection is. If a customer wants to be the coolest then most likely they don’t care about the warranty so don’t create confusion, sell specifically to the emotion they need to feel.

Does that mean our customers will always buy if we figure out their emotional trigger? No, every customer has a certain amount of time and money they are willing to invest in order to achieve the feeling they want. Your challenge to figure out where that threshold is. You have likely heard the expression people buy with emotion and justify with logic. It’s true. Find their emotional reason then back it up with logical evidence to support their decision. If the customer is emotionally attached enough they will help you support their decision.

As Harry Beckwith says, “Price is often the reason given but seldom the answer, LOOK DEEPER!”

How can you “Pay It Forward?”

October 18, 2009

payforwardPay It Forward is a book, but it’s also an idea. It’s an action plan within a work of fiction. But does it have to be fiction? I hope not. In fact, since the book was released in January of 2000, a real-life social movement has emerged, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. What began as a work of fiction has already become much more.

Reuben St. Clair, the teacher protagonist of the book “Pay It Forward”, starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit assignment: THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION.

Trevor, the 12-year-old hero of Pay It Forward, thinks of quite an idea. He describes it to his mother and teacher this way: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.” He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. “Then it sort of spreads out, see. To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?”

The preceding text was taken from the website

I don’t know about you but I remember watching the movie, “Pay it Forward” and thinking to myself what a powerful, generous, life changing idea… Just imagine if the world bought in!

This month I thought it would be great if all of us took three ideas/life lessons, that have helped us immensely and paid them forward. Share them with three or more people who could benefit and would find value in what you have to offer. Then, of course, ask them to “pay it forward” to others.

Here’s what I am thinking…

What would happen if you thought of one employee, one customer and one personal friend and you were to share with them one of the powerful life lessons you have learned? In return you were to ask them to pay it forward to one other person in the company, one of their customers’ and also one of their personal friends.

What do you think would happen? Do you think your relationships would grow stronger? Do you think people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for might grow stronger. Do you think your world might become a better place?

I also want to remind you of the Law of Reciprocity that states, “that we will want to repay, in kind, what another person has generously provided us.” The Law of Reciprocity exists inside of us; people will want to help others who have unselfishly helped them. Think of it as the emotional bank account that binds the loyalty in all our relationships!

Note: We cannot pursue reciprocity. When we try to invoke reciprocity directly, we lose sight of the reason for it: to help others!
Now, for my part I thought I would share three of the most powerful ideas that I have experienced in my business life.

1) Put Braille on your business card. While you may not have a reason to, it speaks volumes about the type of caring person you are and I guarantee your business card will stand out and be noticed more than any other card out there. The cost is approximately $60.00 and can be done at the CNIB.

2) Draw a pictogram of your company’s future. While I was President of ExecuTrain, my Vice President drew a wonderful 20-foot pictogram of the company’s journey and what lies ahead. She drew highway onramps and off ramps to show the employees who would be coming and leaving, she drew construction zones to illustrate the areas where we expected to undergo great change, she drew fast food joints and fine dining establishments to indicate questions we had to consider when defining our service model, she drew toll roads to illustrate our need to get our Accounts Receivable in order. I watched in awe as employees started to relate to this picture and were able to get a much clearer perspective of where our business was going and why we were doing some of the things we were doing.

3) Give new employees a “welcome” gift. When I was President of ExecuTrain, every new employee got a handwritten welcome card and a $25 Chapters Gift Certificate for their personal use. For me, I always thought that we should celebrate when people join the organization, not when they leave it.

I hope you can use these ideas in your business, either pass them on or pay it forward with your own three great ideas.

Brainstorming Ideas

  1. What great lessons/ideas can you share?
  2. Who will you share them with?

What has changed with you?

October 18, 2009

The other day a friend of mine remarked on just how much my four-year-old daughter had changed since the last time he saw her. “She is growing up to be quite a little woman”, he commented. I bet that she can be a real “helper” around the house.

Quite honestly his comments struck me as odd. First off, I didn’t really see that “big” of a difference in my daughter and secondly I had never thought of her as having the skills to be a great helper around the house. However, as I thought about it, I realized he was right, my daughter had indeed developed a lot more than I was giving her credit for. I realized that because I see her everyday, because I witness every subtle change she makes, I quickly absorb these changes in to my everyday perception of who she is. Somehow because I am so close to her, the changes she makes become less significant.

As parents, immense change in our children can go virtually unnoticed because we live and breathe them every day. However, since my friend has a more distant relationship, these changes jumped right out at him. What my friend taught me that day was that sometimes you can get too close, too enthralled and you need to step back and really make an effort to notice all of the little changes that have happened around you.

It was this little chance encounter with my friend that has prompted me to think about an often-overlooked question and that is, “What has changed with you?” When was the last time that you asked yourself this question?

Have you gained new expertise, new production equipment or new distribution channels? Do you have more income or more customers that would allow you to undertake new business opportunities that before were considered impossible? Do you have new employees who bring in a different level of expertise or have old employees taken new training giving them new skills you’ve never considered. Have you considered other departments, other divisions and other regions, are they doing things that you can leverage off?

This month, why not map out all the changes that have happened and ask yourself what do all of these changes mean to me? Like we do with our children, many times we can get too close to our business and fail to recognize all of the changes that have happened within us.

List as many ideas for the following … I have included a few to get you started …

  1. How have you changed?
  2. Has your attitude changed?
  3. Has your beliefs changed?
  4. Has your vision changed?
  5. How has your financial situation changed?
  6. Do you have more/less cash in the bank?
  7. Do you have new ways to fund projects?
  8. Has your cashflow changed?
  9. Have your margins changed?
  10. How has your customer list changed?
  11. Do you have more customers… or fewer customers?
  12. How has your relationship changed with them?
  13. Are your customers getting older or younger?
  14. How have their demographics changed?
  15. Has the length of contract changed?
  16. Have their expectations changed?
  17. How has your business process changed?
  18. Do you have new systems or new processes?
  19. Are there new technology changes?
  20. How has your business structure changed?
  21. Has the decision process changed?
  22. How have your employees changed?
  23. Do you have more employees… or fewer employees?
  24. How has the average age and work experience changed?
  25. How has the skill set changed (education, business experience, language)?
  26. How has the culture changed?

Keep in mind, the examples I’ve provided here are all very obvious things to look at. Your real value will come from looking closer and harder at the subtle changes that are specific to you and your organization. Once you’ve brainstormed a complete and thorough list of what has changed, ask yourself how can you leverage these changes better in the future?

How can you touch their heart?

October 18, 2009

I want to share a poem with you that I wrote many years ago. Originally it was written for a very dear friend who was going through some very tough times but over the years I have shared it with many others as a way of saying I care.

Your Virtual Friend
Although I do not stand beside you
and I cannot always be there with you
I take my place within you
I am, they say, your virtual friend

As you face your times of challenge
Be kind to yourself
As you are the heart and soul
You are, what many of us, strive to be
Continue to seek your courage
Hold on to your dreams
As sunny skies do linger near
And soon they will shine on you

So when you are set upon those times
Where the hurdles seem to get the best of you
Take a moment to think of me, I am someone who cares
I am, they say, your virtual friend.

Curt Skene

touchheartIt’s funny that on Valentines we have set aside a specific day to touch peoples hearts. With the shape of the world and the way its evolving don’t you think most of us could use more caring, more often?

What do you think your customers would say if you called them up for no real purpose other than to say that you care and you’re there to help? How could you honour those people close to you with a thoughtful gesture that makes them feel special. The “law of reciprocity” states that people will want to give back what has been given to them.

This Valentines, as you spend some time touching the hearts of those who surrond you, think about how you can touch their heart at other times of the year, like the times they least expect it. I guarantee you’ll be amazed with the response you get!

Who’s your hero and what would they do?

October 18, 2009

heroOn September 11th, 2001 New York City faced an unprecedented crisis with the attack and collapse of the World Trade Centre. Never before had any North American city faced such a tragedy, never before had a country seen such purposeful devastation.

As a leader, how can one find the inspiration, the power and the wisdom to rise above and lead during such a horrendous time in history? Rudy Guilliani, then mayor of New York City, was faced with that exact dilemma. Somehow in a crisis, he needed to find the power, the commitment, and the insight to carry a world that was in immense pain! Rudy Guilliani knew he couldn’t do it alone so when he went home that night he sought out the wisdom of his own personal hero, by re-reading much of what had been written by Sir Winston Churchill.

I share this brief story with you because it allows me to introduce this month’s powerful question, “Who is your hero and what would they do?” Imagine for a moment that you stepped into the shoes of someone whom you greatly admire. What do you think they would do if they were facing your challenges? You see, a hero is someone who shares your values and beliefs but is also someone who has another skill, characteristic or ability that you desire.

For many of us, our parents have played the hero role for much of our lives. I know when I feel challenged I often find myself wondering what would my Dad/Mom would do in this situation. Who else might play the hero role for you? Sports stars, movie stars, friends or relatives are just a few of the many possibilities. Have you ever noticed how many business books are sharing the insights of people who have succeeded in their goal? Could any of these people be your hero? Who even said your hero had to be a person? Why couldn’t your hero be a company? Ask yourself, what would Wal-mart, Microsoft or Ben and Jerry’s do if they were in your situation!

In order to apply this question, just ask yourself, “who is my hero (and yes you can have many!)” Write down their name and then ask yourself why are they your hero? Are they more knowledgable, driven, committed, caring, dedicated? What is it that you think they do better than you? If your hero is more compassionate, then ask yourself how can you show more compassion with the situation you are facing. If your hero is more caring than ask yourself how can you be more caring. When you model the skills and abilities of someone you admire, you soon develop them yourself.

Try using this approach on a situation you currently are facing. I will bet you the results will be incredible and it will open you up to new possibilities that have escaped you in the past.

Brainstorm Activity
Make a list of all the heroes in your life and write them down.

Ask yourself, why exactly are they your hero? What is it that they have/do?
Reframe your own thinking to ask yourself what you would need to do to become more like them.

One final note, whenever I present this question, undoubtably someone tells me that they don’t really have a hero in their life. If that is you, ask yourself, “why not?” as we all need heros in our lives to inspire and motivate us.

How can you give your customers more time?

October 18, 2009

timeI read a great quote once that said, “In the past 20 years we have gone from speaking milliseconds to nanoseconds which is the equivalent of compressing 40 years into 4.8 minutes!”

This is the inspiration for my question this month, “How can you give your customers more time?”

Customers buy time every day. They buy availability, they buy delivery, they buy ease of implementation and they buy ease of use. In reality, aren’t these all just elements of time? We want it now, we want to know how to use it now, we want it performing now. We don’t have time to wait! We don’t want to have to go to far to get it!

Everyone is under an incredible time constraint. Our workweeks are getting longer, our productivity expectations are getting bigger and our need to have a balanced home life is getting stronger. How does anyone keep up? How does your customer keep up? It reminds me of the old saying, “None of us have enough time but all of us have all that there is!”

When was the last time you stopped to think about how you can give your customers more time? Do you even know what time means to them?

Time could be:

  • time required to deliver/install
  • time required to decide
  • time to prepare
  • time required to change
  • time required to learn
  • time required to acquire
  • time available to reserve/pre-order
  • time service is accessible (especially in Professional sector)
  • time required to maintain
  • production time (amount of output per hour)
  • other ideas?


I read about a great “best practice” whereby a Professional in North America hired his Admin in Australia. When he got up in the morning all of his work was done and it was waiting in his inbox! Could this idea work for you?

This month take some time to think about time. What does it mean to you, what does it mean to your customers, how can you be more efficient with time?
I will guarantee you that tomorrow’s winners will be the masters of time.

Brainstorming Ideas

  1. How would your customer define time?
  2. How could you give customers more time?

What are the basics you need to do brilliantly?

October 18, 2009

For many years I played the game of squash, and in all those years I took many lessons. In fact, I took lessons from at least four or five different squash pros. While each pro was different in their approach, each one of them was fixated on perfection. In some lessons I would spend 40 minutes just making sure my elbow was bent at the correct angle or that my feet were placed perfectly. In the end none of these changes really made a big difference, until the day I met Tim Gardiner. Tim was the squash pro at the Parkview Club and what he said in our first lesson has stuck with me all these years. He said, “We can spend hours on end working on your stance, your positioning and your grip but in reality none of those things are going to matter unless I can get you to commit to doing the basics brilliantly.” He told me that most squash players had the same abilities and skill but it was the ones who were brilliant with the basics that rose to the top.

That day Tim taught me three things that changed my game. In no time I won my squash ladder, I then won the next squash ladder and I quickly moved into being a competitive squash player. I tell you this because this month I want you to think about mastering the basics in your world.

I think many of us get so stuck in our pursuit of perfection (or the pursuit of pizzazz) that we fail to focus on the simple things that will make a world of difference. We implement sophisticated CRM systems, we create slick customer presentations/websites and we write “knock’em dead” proposals but we forget about our commitment to the core.

In the world of relationships and business development I believe there are three activities we can all consider as part of our basic core:

  1. Asking for customer commitment,
  2. Uncover/probe for “true” client needs,
  3. Actively farm and develop future opportunity,

So let me ask you, how would you rank yourself and/or your company in these three areas? Are you committed to doing the basics brilliantly? Perhaps in your world there are other things that are part of your core. What are they? How are you doing with them? Remember the “Hawthorne Effect” that taught us, “Things that are monitored, improve.”

This month take time to discover the basics in your business. Ask what are the “must do” simple things that will make all the difference in the world? Once you know what they are… then make a commitment to do them brilliantly!


List as many ideas for the following …

1) What are the basic elements in your business?
2) How would you rate your performance in doing them?
3) What could you commit, in order to do them brilliantly?

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