Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

The art of acting on feedback ...



Some time ago, I was with a group of international colleagues going back to our hotel after an intensive day working through how to get our clients to understand how to apply our referral marketing strategy to their own businesses ...

There's more than one way to skin a cat is a classic phrase, but it doesn't involve hurting kittens!

There's more than one way to skin a cat is a classic phrase, but it doesn't involve hurting kittens!

copyright: bignai / 123rf stock photo

Ideas and banter were flying around the car and I said "There's more than one way to skin a cat". The conversation then went off onto another track. A few minutes later our driver, a Norwegian colleague, burst out laughing. "Ah" he said "Now I understand. I didn't know why you would want to hurt a cat".

Taken literally, to modern sensitivities, it is a horrible image, but, unlike our Norwegian colleague, my English and American companions didn't have an image of a cat in their heads at all.

This little story came back to me this week when reviewing the feedback received from the introductory workshop we've been running over the summer and how we can improve this starter workshop.

Like all valuable feedback, it was a mixture of positive comments and observations on where we could improve. We could just accept John Lydgate's observation, "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time" and move on. Alternatively, we could make some changes.

Thankfully for the majority of delegates, there were real eye openers; these people got an "Aha" moment, a realisation of something they can add or do differently when seeking to get referrals from their network.

Others felt disappointed that it all seems rather simple and stated: "I'm doing that already". Then there were a few people who baulked at the idea that they would have to follow a strict set of rules and behave in ways that seemed alien to their values and way of running their business.

"All this was countered by others wanting a straightforward, simple formula they could just follow!"

Where I think we can take on board the comments of our critics is getting across the highly individual way we work with clients to apply the knowledge and techniques to their particular business needs, previous experience and personal style. This is the link back to having 'more than one way to skin a cat'.

What is heartening is that we have actually been moving this way as a company and it is central to the re-branding exercise we are currently undertaking. At its heart is a more explicit shift away from training people how to apply a prescribed series of procedures to working with them in a variety of ways to put in place a sustainable business strategy that leverages the full power of their network. If you like, finding their way of skinning their own particular cat.

Re-branding can be a powerful way of revitalising a company and getting it up to date. On the other hand, in the search for the new, it can destroy what is already working well.

"So is the new approach going to please our fans as well as our critics?"

We will only change the knowledge and techniques we impart when there is evidence to support that change. What we use now is based and supported by the latest research in human behaviour and business development. We add in our own experience and evidence of what works to give our clients the results they seek.

We are unlikely to make it more complicated. Simplicity is a strength, not a weakness. However, it is naive to confuse simplicity with easy to do or as being unsophisticated. Anyone who has used a good coach will know that the simplest questions can be hardest to answer and give the most insightful results.

We are combining networks and human relationships, both notoriously complex in nature so what we actually do is give people tools and techniques to cut through that complexity into something that is systematic and workable for them.

For those who want a prescribed formula, we can help them devise one. I believe even this needs to be supported by an individual approach. At a company level, it means putting in place systems and process for the team to follow that works for that organisation. At an individual level, it means help in developing the specific skills needed to apply the techniques.

"Few of us learned to drive and
negotiate traffic safely just by reading the Highway Code!"

Those wanting something at a higher, more sophisticated level are usually already successful at referral marketing and looking to achieve real mastery to get the greater leverage they want. An introductory workshop is not the right vehicle as it is designed for the beginner who acknowledges that they need the basics. An individual coaching approach would be more beneficial than a mixed level public workshop.

So what have we learnt from our feedback? Affirmation that one size does not fit all and that we need to target our own market with more care. Applying the right introductory offer to people at the right level for their experience and needs.

While the new branding will help us to do this it will offer more than just a re-packaging of what went before. It is built on our extensive knowledge of what works, but the real innovation comes in delivering it in a manner that more closely matches the needs of our clients.

In introducing our expertise to differing people, we would be better to pitch some short low-cost workshops to the novice followed by a programme that gives them a formula to adapt to their business. For the more experienced business owner or company, a more individual consultative coaching and facilitation approach from the start that takes them up to the next level would seem more relevant.

We definitely have some work to do on our own messages and must re-design our introductory offers to help our potential customers to decide which route is best for them.

As one of my early clients said to me in some feedback, "It's the blindingly obvious I haven't been doing". But, then again, isn't that what feedback is for?

Until next time ...


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07970 638857