Fable Friday: Tea for Two and a trainer’s tip

You’ve all heard the popular song “Tea for Two,” as just about every recording artist has done a version of it, and in today’s Fable Friday I’ll tell you the story of how it was written.  The song first appeared in the musical “No No Nanette” in 1925 with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Irving Caesar.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedSo it’s the middle of the night and Youmans is tinkering with this melody on the piano and finally he nails it.  Excited about the bouncy tune, he calls his collaborator Irving Caesar and gets him out of bed.

“Irving, I just wrote this song. You’ve got to hear it.”  He plays the melody on the piano into the telephone.  Caesar says to him, “You woke me up at 3 in the morning to play me a song? It’s a fine song, now let me go back to sleep.”

Youmans said, “Irving listen to me. You’ve got to give me the lyrics while I have the song in my head. We’ve got to do this now. This song is going to a terrific. Quick, give me the lyrics. We’ll finish it tonight.”

Exasperated, Caesar gives him the first words that come into his head. He sings into the phone, “’Picture you upon my knee, just tea for two and two for tea. Just me for you and you for me alone.’  Now let me go back to sleep and I’ll write the real lyrics in the morning.”

Well, the morning came and the two met and after fooling with different approaches, decided they couldn’t do any better, and Caesar’s hastily created lyrics remained in this popular song, followed by the even sweeter line:

“Nobody near us to see us or hear us
No friends or relations
On weekend vacations”

I often think of this song during training sessions when we break out into small groups, or “buzz groups” where the learners are asked to come up with as many ideas as they can on a topic. A good trainer’s tip if you ever do such an exercise is to remember that 90% of the good ideas will arise from discussion in the first 4 minutes of the activity.

What this means to you as the trainer is that you should be mindful of the time and the group’s progress to ensure maximum results. Don’t start the exercise and then look at your phone to check your messages. Instead, walk among the groups and listen to their discussions.  When it’s obvious that discussion is waning and no more ideas are forthcoming, stop the exercise.

Of course during the debrief, make sure to get one idea from each group, moving around the room until you get all their ideas.  If you debrief all of each group, then the last group will usually say, “All our ideas have been mentioned,” which diminishes their sense of participation.

In his outstanding book “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell provides a great deal of evidence that our first responses, or gut instincts to solve a problem are often proved to be correct.  Trust the judgment and experience of your learners in problem-solving activities such as this. Give them a question and direct them to solve it quickly.  You’ll manage workshop time more effectively and keep the learners engaged. That’s how you…

Think Like Your Customer

How a bottle of ketchup can bring you closer to your customer

In today’s Fable Friday you’ll learn how a bottle of ketchup got a company closer to its customers (and made more money)!

In his outstanding book “What the Dog Saw,” Malcolm Gladwell tells this story. Many years ago the H. J. Heinz Co. in Pittsburgh, decided to do some market research on how families used their number one product, ketchup. So they sent researchers into a number of families’ homes to observe.

One of them related, “There was a three-year-old and a six-year-old, and what happened was that the kids asked for ketchup and the Mom brought out a forty-ounce bottle.  The three-year-old went to grab it, and Mom intercepted the bottle and said, “No, you’re not going to do that.”  So she took the bottle away and poured out a little dollop. No doubt you’ve done this with your own kids when they were little. You see the kid trying to pour a glass of milk from a gallon jug and you say, “Whoa! Let me do that. You’ll spill it all over the place.”

For Heinz, that moment was a wake-up call, because a five-year-old uses 60 percent more ketchup than a forty-year-old, and Heinz realized it needed to put the ketchup in a bottle that the child could control.

The researcher commented, “If you’re four, you don’t get to choose what you eat for dinner, in most cases, but the one thing you can control is ketchup. It’s the one part of the food experience that a child can customize and personalize.”

As a result of these observations and conclusions, Heinz introduced the smaller EZ Squirt bottle, made of soft plastic with a conical nozzle.  And in homes where the EZ Squirt is used, ketchup consumption has grown by as much as 12 percent.  Pretty slick, wouldn’t you say?

Now how does this apply to you when you sell?  Salespeople are always worrying, “How do I get this new product out?  How do I expand my relationships with my existing customers?”

Why not do what Heinz did?  You can’t go into people’s homes to do market research of course, but you can do a better job of learning how people 1) Do some task or procedure that your product can do for them more quickly, conveniently, or thoroughly, or 2) Find out how they are using your product now.

A great example of the second case involves software applications.  If you sell software, you should always ask how your customer is using the application now, so you can make useful suggestions on how to optimize the product’s value.  I’ll bet if my tech-savvy son were to ask me to sit down with him and show him how I use my iPhone, he could give me a dozen pointers on features the phone has that I don’t use, either because I don’t know about them or don’t know how to make them work.

Observing usage and asking good questions, whether it’s ketchup, software or any other product is a great way to…

Think Like Your Customer