BIZTIPS - November 6, 2005

Biz Tips: Avoid TMI - Peel the Onion
Sunday, November 6, 2005
By Art Hill

"TMI" (Too Much Information) is a standing joke. There's even a commercial that features a guy rambling on about his physical and emotional problems until his friend stops him.

TMI might be funny (or not) in personal conversation. But in business, it can be a downright disaster. Rattling on about products or services can drive off a customer. Gossiping about people can ruin a reputation (your own). Disclosing proprietary company information can land you in jail.

Seventy years ago during World War II, the British had a saying "loose lips sink ships." People who talked casually about supply ship schedules learned that those ships were being torpedoed because enemy ears overheard their conversations.

"Loose lips" opportunities are everywhere in business. Detailed product plans carry from nearby booths in restaurants. Sales reps congratulate each other right outside a clientís office. E-mails get copied to people with no business knowing confidential information.

That's where "peeling the onion" comes in. Disclose business information one layer at a time - like peeling an onion. For example, if you're meeting a new customer, start by asking what's important to them. Respond with related information - then stop talking! Ask them what else is important to them. Soon you will both be "peeling the onion," revealing more and more about your company and products but exchanging just the information that's important to your customer. They'll appreciate how well you listen, and how clearly and professionally you present your company and products.

Business information should be exchanged on a "need to know" (and authorized to know) basis. Clients and colleagues appreciate clear, well organized information. Set the policy that if loose lips sink any company ships, there will be consequences. Train everybody to "peel the onion" when they present information to avoid TMI syndrome. It's the least you can do - and usually for effective business communication, less is better.

Content © 2005 East Oregonian