Alex Meade, VP of Sales and Marketing at Beacons Point, sits down with Darren Reinke, founder of Group Sixty Executive Coaching, to discuss communication and its importance especially with the global shift to remote work.
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Episode Show Notes
Alex began his career in film and TV as a Producer and Associate Producer for Original Productions. During his time, he worked on several of the company’s most popular programs including Discovery Channel’s show “Deadliest Catch.” After hauling his fair share of Alaskan crab home from filming, he spent time working as the Lead A/V Editor and Assistant Producer for advertising heavyweight TBWAChiatDay. There he was responsible for overseeing content and creative portions of campaigns for the likes of Nissan, Gatorade, Pepsi, and more. When Alex is not working on client work, he’s serving as the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and hanging out with his wife, Mary Beth, and dog, Hank.
Darren has over 20 years of experience coaching and advising companies and executives across a range of industries including technology, life sciences, professional services, consumer products, and manufacturing. He founded Group Sixty in 2010 to help companies win in competitive marketplaces by maximizing the development and impact of leaders and their teams. Specifically, Group Sixty strengthens organizations by transforming leaders and managers into player coaches who can develop and engage their direct reports. We also coach leadership teams to improve communication, collaboration, trust, and accountability leading to greater productivity and lower turnover.
0:00-0:26 – Introductions
0:27-3:02 – Adapting your communication style to fit virtual formats
- The importance of intentional communication across all channels (Slack, Zoom, text, etc.)
- Strategies for adapting your executive presence and communication without in-person interactions
3:03-4:46 – How to embrace family interruptions during business calls
- Using Zoom calls as a way to show your personality and give yourself and others permission to have family/home interruptions
- Give a tour of your workspace, the homeschool zone if you have one, etc.
4:47-7:14 – How communication has shifted and changed during COVID-19
- Being empathetic of peoples’ current situations and adjusted schedules
- The importance of personalizing your sales outreach and content
7:15-11:22 – How to humanize your sales outreach going forward
- Using video to personalize your sales process
- Being a helpful resource instead of just a salesperson
11:23-12:48 – How to inspire and foster team camaraderie as a leader while remote
- Being empathetic and connecting with people on a one-to-one basis
- Think about the purpose of your organization beyond selling products or services
- Connect your teams’ roles back to the vision and purpose of the organization
12:49-13:22 – Closing comments
Alex [0:00] Hey everybody, it’s Alex from Beacons Point, and I’m here with Darren Reinke. He’s the founder of Group Sixty. And today, we’re going to have a quick conversation around communication and kind of why is that important. And Darren is an executive leadership coach, and I thought, you know, who better to ask about communication than Darren. So Darren, right now, as you can imagine, communication is extremely important. So I wanted to know your thoughts on that and why?
Darren [0:27] Communication is, honestly, it’s an attribute of leaders that’s always important. And I think right now, just given that the environment that we’re in, we’re working from home, there’s a lot of people that have never worked virtually before. I’ve worked for many, many years remotely, so I’m more comfortable, although now it’s more on video versus on phone calls. It’s that much more important because the words, the gestures, and the tone of our voice can be misperceived, whether it’s on texting or via Slack or email or whatnot, but it’s that much more important because we’re not face-to-face, side-to-side, where we can actually get to learn more about the person. So it’s that much more important than ever before and the words do really matter. Yes, definitely, how you say it is actually more important than what you say, but the words truly do matter. And it’s important to pick our words wisely, especially during these times.
Alex [1:18] What are you telling your clients and your leadership groups? How are you advising them to adapt? Because one thing we do in our sales process is we always recommend, you kind of mentioned this, that words are only a part of communication, but there’s so much more. And we always recommend videos like this, because I think it’s like 85% of how we communicate is body language, in other more physical forms of communication rather than just words. So what kind of strategies are you recommending to adapt with this style?
Darren [1:52] Yeah, I think that thinking about the medium is important and on video, we have a lot of conversations about executive presence, and how you speak, how you influence, how you inform and it looks a little bit different when you’re on video. So it’s important. We talk about the gestures that we use, the pose, our body language because so much is communicated. And right now I just see you in a little box and I don’t get to see the Alex walking around and using those gestures that I normally would see in person if we’re having a face-to-face meeting. So that’s another big thing, which is that the medium does matter, but also just take into account when you’re communicating through Slack or text or email, is don’t get lazy. Because sometimes we’re communicating so fast. We’re so distracted, whether we have kids or homeschooling in this current environment. And people can get lazy, they can leave out punctuation, they can leave out some of the words the salutation, etc., and we communicate in styles that can come across in a bit of an abrasive manner to people. So I think it really is important to be a bit more intentional and slow down a little bit in terms of your communications, maybe read it a second time before you send it because when we are virtual especially, things can be misinterpreted.
Alex [3:03] Yeah, I mean, as we started to record this, I think my son ran by and was upset by something, so obviously we all are adapting to working at home. Some of us, you know, are more used to this than others, but this whole family element. In the beginning, I was kind of nervous to have that family background noise, maybe we’ll call it. What are people talking about now in the leadership world of embracing the family interruptions in business calls that maybe would have been frowned upon?
Darren [3:37] I think we’re all in very similar situations. Of course, we’re seeing people slowly move back into offices, but still, it’s going to be different moving forward. We’re not going to go back to January, that people are going to probably stay in work primarily from home or work from anywhere, but I think you can make it fun. I think it’s cool when you get on a call for the first time, is walk around with your laptop or your phone and give a little tour to help understand your dog and your kids, and perhaps where the homeschooling is happening, obviously, with the kids, I’m thinking about that all the time. But make it fun, it gives yourself permission, so that when it does happen. I was on a coaching call, a video call a couple of months ago, and my son came up and gave me a hug, wrap his arms around me, and it does show a little bit of humanity, but I think if you can kind of ask for permission if you go and you give a tour, which is a fun thing to do anyway, but we’re all in similar situations. And in the past, I had to be an expert muter. I remember having a construction project going on in my house and having to mute during conference calls so that people couldn’t hear what was going on. And now it’s a little bit, it’s more okay, which I think is cool and it’s fun, and it does show our personality and some more humanity. That’s some of the things that I’m thinking about. But what about you? I know as a marketer, I know you focus on inbound or content marketing. Talk to me about what you’re thinking in terms of communications and what a role that plays, especially in an environment now, where I know you’re having many more virtual conversations and I know you obviously use a lot of digital tools anyway but talk to me about how communication has shifted in this new world.
Alex [5:09] Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, I think like most businesses, marketing, we have clients all over the place and there were a lot of virtual meetings, a lot of Zoom, a lot of Slack communication. I think the big difference now is the tonality of how we are conveying messages for our clients to their clients or their prospects. You know, when Coronavirus first hit, do we even send out emails? Like, we don’t know people’s situations, we don’t know who’s been affected by what. And so it was a very cautious, you know, leading with empathy and I think that’s one thing that’s going to change in sales and marketing for really forever is to see people as humans again, and I know this is a trend and some people will say that already happens, but you’d be surprised how lack of personalized, you know, content or data or lack of humanizing content there is. And I think that is really going to come in a big way. Because now we’re all realizing. We just talked about kids interrupting. We just talked about construction sounds, I mean, I had the gardener go by and had to shut my window and these are all things that make us human. And we have to remember that we’re marketing to somebody who might have 30-minute increments because they have to switch off with their partner for childcare and be a little bit more relaxed on some of those things. So I think we’re going to see a big trend in the personalization of sales outreach of content, you know, more understanding, I think the business day for most businesses is like what, like nine to five, eight to six, something like that. And now I think it’s a, you know, more of a well I wake up from six to nine, do my emails, then I do homeschooling till noon, switch with my partner, then I do a couple of hours here, then I take him to practice, then do a couple of hours at home. You know getting those times in is just going to be, I think really an interesting process as we move through this.
Darren [7:15] It’s interesting. You mentioned just the early outreach when this first hit. To me, it felt tone-deaf in some ways to be reaching out and just seemed opportunistic. And I know I’ve had conversations with people that were in a sales capacity and they struggle with it. Sometimes they said, maybe it’s time to be more aggressive and go on the offensive. And I struggle with that. I’m curious, how will you suggest to me in my business, but also to others in terms of what are some of those tactics that you can use to be more human, as you mentioned in this world, whether it’s right now or also just going forward and the ensuing months and hopefully not years, but could be years.
Alex [7:53] Yeah. I struggled with that big time in the beginning. You know, because we lost some clients and we’re not, you know, we’re not immune to it. And I think most marketing agencies at the beginning felt the pain. And it’s this like stuck between, well, I need to grow this business to make money to keep our employees, you know, hired and keep, you know, keep money coming in, but on the other hand, I don’t know what’s going on the other side of that email that I’m sending or phone call that I’m making. It was hard to decide what the best approach was. But I think now we’re in a different state. I think people are feeling like they’re getting back to normal. In one way, you know, we always talked about this, you know, pre-COVID-19, and I think it’s something that will become even more popular now is using video in your sales process. It’s one way we’ve been able to find how to communicate and make it more personal. And if you use personalization, do your research on that specific prospect or person you’re talking to, and record a short video that shows more about you. Use props, you know, you can change backgrounds if you know, if it’s funny, you can have your kid come in or if your dog always likes to be in there. You know, I had a conversation with somebody that’s a good friend of mine and they said on their big leadership conference call with people from Hong Kong, people from New York, people from LA, and one of their bosses, one of the head executive’s dog was in the background, just like wrestling around some blankets and no one paid attention to the CEO, because they’re just looking at this dog doing like dog things. And I think anytime you can show who you are and be more personable is going to be a benefit. I think that’s one of the things moving forward is salespeople are going to be more of a resource and value-added person than they are just a salesperson. You know, my dad was a salesman, he sold Hormel foods, and I do imagine he walked into a grocery store and said, “This is how much it costs, you’re buying it. Let’s go play golf.” And now I think it’s more of a, “Hey, your grocery store needs some more customers, how can I help you with that” and being more of a resource than a salesperson?
Darren [10:13] Great point.
Alex [10:15] Maybe that wasn’t on the full topic of communication. But I think it’s all, in terms of sales and marketing, relative and it’s all related. I think.
Darren [10:25] I know, just knowing you, you talk about always be helping, I believe is one of your things that you’re focusing on.
Alex [10:31] Yeah, I think it’s something that we noticed trying to be different in the sales process early on. And now it’s proving to be the right decision, at least from our perspective. I hate selling and that sounds funny as the leader of our sales and marketing at Beacons Point, but I like helping and I like trying to figure out how to solve problems for people and I think salespeople are going to be solving problems. People need help right now and if you can help them, they’re looking for answers. They’re looking for support and if there’s a way you can help them, I think that will really go a long way.
Darren [11:10] Yeah, I think that gets back to communication. And that’s really authentic for you when you’re reaching out I know just from our own interactions, whether it’s personal or professional is thinking about finding ways to help and you’ve always been really generous in that way as well.
Alex [11:23] Thank you. Well, you know, so I was actually thinking about you. So CEOs in the movies, they make big speeches on the factory line, they make big you know, talks to the boardroom, how are leaders still inspiring? Are they still you know, bringing that team camaraderie when they’re remote like this, and maybe you may be forced remote, right, because most people weren’t ready for this.
Darren [11:51] It’s definitely a challenge of course. Yeah, in the movies, you have someone speaking and you’re giving this really inspiring talk and a lot can be done, I think in terms of getting internal alignment. So having one-to-one conversations with people, because people have really been impacted in very different ways, whether it’s financial, whether it’s some family situation, it could be health, in the worst cases, and having that empathy and connecting with people on that one-to-one basis is really helpful. But I think another big thing is really thinking about the purpose of your organization, what are you trying to achieve as a company and hopefully you have that lofty goal of what you’re trying to go do beyond just sell products and services. And if you can connect what you’re saying, what the person’s role is back to that vision and back to that purpose. It creates a lot of excitement and a lot of motivation for people to put in the extra work that we all need to do to help get our companies back on track and move forward.
Alex [12:49] Yeah, I think everyone’s in that boat, right? How do we best adapt to this adversity and move forward and find good opportunities? So Darren, thanks for joining me here about communication. So I want to say one thing about Darren, he’s been, you know, creating a lot of great content. So make sure to follow him on LinkedIn. He’ll be posting that stuff on the regular I hope, more consistent because he’s great at it. Darren, is there anything else you want to share here?
Darren [13:18] No, that’s great. Thanks for having me on. And, of course, thanks for the shout out. Appreciate it.
Alex [13:22] All right. Thanks, everyone. Check back we’re going to be doing these more often.