• May 1, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Required Reading: Short and Sweet

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For the rest of the May 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

In life, we’re often tempted to take shortcuts—but it’s often said that shortcuts lead to long delays. So it seemed a bit unorthodox when author Scott Halford encouraged everyone to become one in his appropriately titled book, Be a Shortcut. No matter how independent you consider yourself to be, you undeniably rely on others to help you accomplish tasks—or, in Halford’s case, to save your life. No matter what you lack—the resources, the time, the desire—shortcuts make our lives easier, and for that, we’re grateful. To be one, in turn, means you’re enhancing your value to those around you. Given today’s economy, it may be the reason you still have your job. CRM Assistant Editor Jessica Tsai had the opportunity to speak to Halford about the long-standing benefits of being a shortcut.

CRM magazine: You open the book with your experience of being rescued while whitewater rafting. It’s not a situation many people find themselves in—how does it tie into what it takes to be a shortcut?

Scott Halford: That rafting story [was] an emblem of all the things that embody the shortcut: the way it feels, how quickly it happens, and everything that has to do with [what shortcuts] are. [The] rescuer came to mind so quickly because he was everything I needed at that time. He did it with such amazing command that it elicited a very powerful feeling.
Good shortcuts in business are people who are not necessarily out there to toot their own horn. They’re people who do their job, do it so incredibly well, and do it without attitude. When you’re looking for that one thing to be done, you’re looking for that one person every time, and they make you feel like that rescuer [made me feel].

CRM magazine: If they’re not already a shortcut, this requires making significant changes. How do they get started?

Halford: The first thing I’d have them do is answer two questions: “Who are my shortcuts and how am I nurturing them?” and “Who am I a shortcut to and how well do I embody [these qualities]?”
Do an assessment first because with any kind of change comes awareness. A lot of people just go about life saying, “I have a list of people who help me. I help others.” But they’re not deliberate about it. Especially during this time, the shortcuts are the ones who are surviving.

CRM magazine: Coming from a business perspective, how does serving a niche market benefit you as opposed to having a wide breadth of solutions that try to be everything to everybody?

Halford: Businesses can frame themselves as a shortcut. They’re that lifeline. [They] anticipate the kinds of questions and needs [clients] will have—and they’re ready to stun and amaze their clients. If [clients know] everything they need to know about the thing they’re trying to buy, it would be rare, and why would they need to go to the vendor then? The world is so incredibly full [of] information that there are very few people who can do it all and do it well.

CRM magazine: You emphasize in the book that someone shouldn’t be a pushover in order to be a shortcut. Can you elaborate on that?

Halford: It’s interesting that in classes that I teach, people say, “I don’t want to be a shortcut because I already have everyone dumping in my lap.” But if you’re truly a shortcut, it’s the expertise and the emotional intelligence. Oftentimes, you’ll find really smart experts who are horrible with people but they have a great deal of expertise. But when they’re overwhelmed, they typically get an attitude and they become difficult to work [with]. Those are the people who don’t have as much influence as a true shortcut. A true shortcut can go in and say something has to change—and things will change.

CRM magazine: To what extent does a shortcut have to change who they are as a person? Is it just about business sense?

Halford: That’s such a loaded question. In the realm of emotional intelligence, you can measure it, and you can see where people excel [and] where they have difficulty. People can change but only when they see the real reason to. When people say “You have to stop being a jerk,” it doesn’t work as well as when they see their life is falling apart.
There are people who intuitively know their success is predicated on how successful they make other people’s lives. If you’re not a shortcut to something or someone, you’re taking up too much space.
That’s true [in] an organization, too. If you look at your competitors—who you’re up against, what makes you different—it’s probably not going to boil down to a bunch of whoop-dee-doo products. It comes down to how you make your clients feel at the end of your relationship, at the end of your transaction, because, by and large, it’s all the same kind of products.

CRM magazine: To what extent is a shortcut a passive figure waiting for someone in need? Is it an active engagement?

Halford: It’s a way of life. We’re all taking care of someone somehow. It’s not like every day is going to be filled with those “Wow!” kinds of moments, but as you live that way, people are attracted to you, and people do things for you. It’s a really simple concept of reciprocity.

It’s active from the standpoint that it becomes the way that they live—and for those who are doing it, they’re in tune [with] it.

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