Evan speaks with Jerry Fletcher, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, about how individuals can build their personal brand. Jerry has been speaking professionally for over two decades as “The Networking Ninja.” Connect with Jerry on LinkedIn or visit his website, networkingninja.com. Individuals who contact Jerry through his website and mention this podcast will receive a 10% reduction on speaking engagements.
Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed, the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain, and will make a difference. Now, here’s your host, Evan Hackel.
Evan: Welcome to another exciting edition of Training Unleashed. I think we have a real treat for everyone. We have Jerry Fletcher with us. He is the CEO of Z-axis Marketing. What makes Jerry kind of interesting, he’s gonna introduce himself, is he’s a real marketing guy. This is a guy that has run marketing companies and ran marketing campaigns for large organizations. And I know in Training, we don’t think of ourselves as marketing people, but we should, and Jerry’s gonna help us kind of learn and apply some of those thoughts to what we do in our jobs. So Jerry, welcome to the show and maybe give everyone a little bit of your background.
Jerry: Well, it’s pretty straightforward. I was an advertising agency CEO. And then one day, my board and I agreed to disagree and I walked out the door, and since that time, I’ve been consulting and speaking professionally about trust-based strategic marketing and business development. That was in 1990. So I’ve been doing this for a while. I found that speaking could get me in front of more prospects and gave me an idea that I should possibly get involved with an organization like NSA. I looked at ASTD, as it was called at the time, and thought, “No, that’s not quite my back.” So I joined NSA. But I’ve spoken for ASTD a number of times. I’ve been speaking professionally since about 1993 as the networking ninja.
Evan: Cool. And we’re gonna talk about networking, but not yet. The first question I want to ask you, Jerry, is as a marketing expert, I think that train departments think of themselves as training departments, but I think the training department like every department has to think of themselves in terms of branding and marketing. And what are your thoughts on, you know, for people listening, if you’re in training department, how does marketing apply to them?
Jerry: Well, for starters, even though you’re in an organization, you can’t assume that you’re gonna get all the roles that you want to play. You cannot assume that you’re gonna get to train this group, that group, whatever. You need to go get that business. In the nice terms, that’s called marketing, okay? You can call it sales, you can call it marketing. It’s a little bit of both, but if people don’t know who you are, and what you do, and how well you do it, in other words, if you don’t have a brand, you’re not gonna get there. The better-known, the C-suite sees you in terms of capabilities, and understanding, and knowledge, and deliverable product, the better off you’re gonna be. That means you have to be a brand.
Evan: So you’re talking about being brand as an individual, like each person’s a brand. Is that right?
Jerry: Yes. Each person in today’s world needs to have a personal brand. They need to have some way for people to identify them, know who they are, know what they do, and know how well they do it. That brand from a personal standpoint has to fit into a department kind of viewpoint in terms of brand. If the department does well training blue collar workers, fine, let that be your brand. If it’s white collar, fine, let that be your brand. If it’s a mix of both, if it’s a mix of IT and non-IT, I don’t care what it is. You need to be known for the ability to deliver. And now how you get that viewpoint across is to establish that brand and sing that tune every single day.
Evan: I love that term. And I’ve never really thought about it, but in the essence, no matter what your brand is, the ultimate point of your brand is you deliver, that you’re a difference-maker organization. So I’m sitting here and I’m a listener on the show, and I’m saying, “Okay, great. Jerry’s telling me I need to be my own brand.” And I’m thinking, “How do I do that? What does it mean for me to be my own brand?” So what are some suggestions you can give to people?
Jerry: In simple terms, you need to step back from what you do on a daily basis and look at that term deliver. What have you delivered? What have you done in the last year, two years, three years? What did people who were in that training think about it? What did they say about it? But more importantly, the people that you were training those folks for in the organization, what did they think, feel, and believe about what you did? That will give you a clue as to how you can describe what it is you do and how well you do it in their terms. Speaking in their terms is the most powerful way to get an idea across, not yours, theirs. If you can talk in terms that they understand and that they are using themselves to describe you, they’re gonna remember you.
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Evan: So what you’re saying is that when people see me, they should think of something. So when they think of Evan Hackel, my goal is they’re saying, “That’s the engagement guy, the engagement guy with an eye, the guy that knows how to get people involved.”
Evan: And that’s what I want people to think when they see me. And what you’re saying is in some ways, that’s the way people need to do that. I’m gonna bet that most of the people on this call haven’t like you or I defined who we are as clearly. They have jobs, they have roles, they do things, they do deliver. They haven’t really thought about what makes them special, what makes them unique, and how they deliver in terms of the verbiage. So maybe elaborate on how someone can kind of think through themselves of what and how they want it to be.
Jerry: In the last two days, I’ve dealt with two organizations in terms of their branding and trying to determine what their vision and mission and so on is. And I’m gonna give your listeners a trick. This is the one that it came down to with a PhD who does multi six-figure jobs or consulting things a year, and another group that’s just cranking up that does wonderful ways, wonderful things with how people can shift their mindsets. The question that you need to ask yourself, your listeners need to ask is, how would I describe what I do to a five-year-old?
Evan: I like that.
Jerry: Now, the reason that works is if they have tried to develop a vision, a mission, all those things ahead of it, and then you ask that question of yourself, you have to answer in very simple words and simple terms, and you have to get to the heart of what it is that you do. So think about it. How would you explain this to a five-year-old? It works every time.
Evan: Never thought about that way, but I guess the way I’d explain myself to a five-year-old is I help people play together better and work together better, or play would be better. But you’re right, I like that. I like that.
Jerry: Well, for instance, a very, very sophisticated negotiating consultant, I mean, one of the tops in the country, finally came down to saying, “Well, I teach people how to help each other and not hurt each other.” Amazing. It’s like, “Okay. Now, I understand.” So again, thinking of how you would explain this to a five-year-old gives you a way to open up and to talk to people at a very, very minimal level, but at a level that requires you to understand not only what it is you do, but the emotion that’s part of it. And we have to understand, all of us, anything we sell, anything we market, whatever, decisions are made emotionally not any other way. We can rationalize them after we make them, but they’re all emotional decisions.
So a brand is a way to say to people, “Okay, look, you can trust me. Not only can you trust me at this logical level, but you can trust me at this emotional level.” That is important.
Evan: It makes it easier for people to understand who you are. I really like that. That’s great advice. I cannot forget, of course, that you are the networking guru and networking is a big part of what you do. To me, one of the issues in training is we tend to get siloed. We tend to work with the same people. We don’t really get out. We don’t necessarily network within our own companies. We only network when we’re outside of our companies. What kind of networking advice can you give to people that are in the training world?
Jerry: Well, first off, I mean, the reason I started talking about networking was I was looking for a way to meet more prospects, to meet more people that I might be helpful to and that might be helpful to me. And I started calling myself the networking ninja and that worked out nicely because people can remember it. It’s an easy thing to remember. So what can I suggest for your listeners? First off, if you are in a silo, and let’s face it, most of you are, you need to get out of that silo. You need to walk through the door and walk over to the next silo because there’s another silo there. There’s one called marketing, okay? There’s one called sales, okay? There’s one called production. There’s one for everything, right?
Your job, because of what you need to be able to do, is to know more people in more of those silos. If you do, you will know what their concerns, problems, and difficulties are, and you will be able to solve their problems for them from your standpoint in terms of what’s the training requirement, what’s needed? You’ll get to answers for them much, much more quickly just because you know them and they know you. Now, the biggest single thing about networking that most people don’t understand is that every single business, every single business starts with networking.
Here’s what will happen. If you have say a CRM training that you’ve been asked to do, but you know the salespeople and the marketing people are both involved with it and you’ve already got to a level of trust with them, you’ll get that job and you’ll be happier with the results and they’ll be happier with the results because of that trust factor. That’s what networking will get you.
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Evan: Jerry, I know you are a professional speaker. I know you are a very good professional speaker.
Jerry: Thank you.
Evan: Well, you’re very well known in the industry, and which is why I got to know you, and which is why I wanted you on the show. Can you just share everybody a little bit about what you speak on and how you can help organizations perform at higher levels? How you deliver?
Jerry: The single most popular speech, and consulting, and presentation that I deliver is called “30-Second Marketing,” and it can be wrapped up in the fairly quickly this way. The single most asked question in North America is, what do you do? How you answer that question determines where your whole relationship is gonna go. And most people have been trained, told, believe that there’s a thing called an elevator pitch that you ought to do at that point. And I’m here to tell you that’s dead wrong.
What you ought to be telling people really doing is having a conversation with them. They want a conversation, not a commercial. So when someone asks that question, what do you do, you have to answer, and my answer is I’m a networking ninja. Well, people kind of look at me and get that strange expression like, “What did he say?” You know, when the dog looks up to you like, “What is he saying?” That allows you to continue to say…well, you know how. And my response to that is or what I say then is, “You know how most people don’t really understand what works with networking and what doesn’t and they’re really kind of afraid to introduce themselves? I can give you a way that you can introduce yourself and walk away with the business if it’s there.” Would you like to talk some more about that?
Jerry: Okay. Now, that little piece of work, everything there is totally scripted, understood, and easy to do for anyone. You can have the same kind of script. I can give you a formula to do that. The reality is once you have that, you can be a better salesman, you can be a better marketing person, you can be a better training person, you can be a better whatever. I don’t care what silo you’re in. Knowing and understanding what people want to hear from you and using their terms is a much more powerful way to get your message across than you’ll ever come across with doing a commercial. Does that help?
Evan: That does help. That does help. So again, I’m gonna hire you as a speaker. You’re gonna help people understand how to communicate better what they do quickly. That’s really, in essence, and that’s a powerful thing. And I suspect that when people leave, they feel much more confident about themselves and much more effective in what they do.
Jerry: Well, I could go on with stories, specific kinds of things that go on, but one simple situation is one where I just made one suggestion in the training organization and it resulted in $1.2 million worth of new business for them in about 10 days.
Evan: Of course, we got to hear more about this, Jerry. So go ahead, share it.
Jerry: Okay. Well, basically what happened was I was doing a consulting job for a very large organization. It had a training department where, of course, they were working with outside. They were an outside supplier. And the CEO said, “I want you to go straighten them out. They’re not doing well. They’re way behind last year. You have carte blanche.” I said, “Oh, really?” He said, “Sure.” Says okay, and off I went. I ran in and met with folks in the division manager and his two top people had just come back from a trade show. And I said, “Great, how’d it go?” He said, “Well, we got 36 people that are interested.” I said, “Really? Who’s writing the thank-you notes?”
And I got this sort of long hard look from the VP, and he said, “We don’t do that. I said, “Really?” He said to the other two, “Can we have the room?” And they left. And I said, “Does that phone got a direct line to the CEO?” “Yes.” Said, “Dial him and put it on speakerphone.” He did. I said, “Here’s what’s going on.” I explained the situation. And the CEO, being not one of the most smooth people, said, “Do what he says or pack your desk.” Clicked. So we agreed to agree, and so they did write the thank-you notes. About a week later, I get this sheepish phone call and you hear the airport noises in the background, and he says, “I’m in Chicago. I’m between planes. I just wanted to let you know that I just signed a contract with one of those people we sent a thank-you note for $800,000.”
I went, “Great.” He said, “Yeah, and the team’s diverted me. Now, I have to go to Des Moines and talk to another one that we send a note to and they wanted to talk about a $400,000 job.” Net, net in 10 days, two thank-you notes, $1.2 million. Now, most people and like the client I had in here yesterday, think that a thank-you note is a terrible thing. They don’t really want to write it. It’s just awful. Everybody says, “Do it,” but they don’t think it’s a good idea. What he said to me was really interesting. He said, “You know, until I got the one that you wrote after we had lunch, I didn’t realize how much it felt like or what it felt like to open that up and see a handwritten note that was for me and only me.”
That’s the difference. That’s one of the networking tricks that you can use if you’re out there in the world. Does that help?
Evan: Well, I’ll tell you something. I receive them occasionally and I would say there’s a direct correlation to receiving them and the people I receive them from being successful. I would also tell you in my company, and we did not script this, we actually developed our own thank-you card. We had an artist take our logo and build a rendering of a really beautiful interesting picture so that when people write that thank-you note, it’s not branding from a perspective, it’s our logo because it’s actually not our logo, but it’s almost like it’s a piece of art and you get it and you look at it and you go, “Wow, what is this?” Then you open it up. And a short note and personalized in some fashion goes a long way and people do not receive them, people do not get them.
I’m sure a lot of people here will send thank-you emails. There’s a big difference between a thank-you email and a thank-you note. So I think that’s an excellent…wasn’t really on our agenda, but an excellent idea, an excellent tip. Which brings me to the question that I end all these with is, if you had one tip to share with a training professional to help them be successful in life, what would that one tip be?
Jerry: I’m gonna go right back to what I said about 30-second marketing. People want a conversation, not a commercial. They want to understand what it is that you do, but even more importantly, you want to understand what they do, how they do it, and what their real concerns are. You can’t get there by doing a commercial. It’s got to be a conversation. So take the time, listen, and understand what’s really going on. That would be the best thing I can offer in terms of networking side of things.
Evan: Well, I think that’s a great, great concept and I think a lot of times, people don’t realize that the other people care about themselves a lot more than they care about you. No, it’s true.
Jerry: It’s so true. It’s so true.
Evan: So you want people to hear, and from their point of view, what they care about, why it matters to them. So, Jerry, I know you have an interesting offer for people listening, and wanted you if you would please share that with everyone.
Jerry: Well, it’s very straightforward. I’d refer you to my website, networkingninja.com. That’s my speaking website, and you’ll find all kinds of interesting propositions there. The key thing that I have to offer is if you come to me because of this, just send me an email through that site that says you heard this podcast and you’re interested in learning more. We’re gonna give you at least a 10% reduction in the cost of me speaking or doing a consulting gig for your firm, that simple, that direct.
Evan: Well, that’s a lot of savings and a really great offer. Jerry, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I think there were a lot of great nuggets for people, and as I always say, if you can unleash training, you can make a real difference in the world. And you really talked about how people can help themselves be better and help their training departments be more successful.
Jerry: Thanks, Evan. That was wonderful. I had a great time.
Evan: I appreciate all our listeners. Everyone have a fantastic day.
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