Archive for November, 2010

People Leave People Is Why Leadership Development & Talent Management Are Critical

Fact #1 – People leave people.

Fact #2 – People do not leave companies.

Unfortunately, there is far less people or leadership development than necessary. This lack of attention to people and talent management has gone beyond creating a drip, drip, drip, but more like a steady gushing stream of water (think profits) being drained away given that only 1 out of 5 employees is actually working 8 for 8 (8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay).

Today I came upon this quick list of 14 management do’s and dont’s.

What would you add after reading this list?

From my perspective, I would include the following:

#15 – Do add a Chief People Officer at the C-Suite Table because failure to do so shows you truly do not care about human capital and talent management
#16 – Do provide a personal leadership development process that is aligned to organizational leadership to all employees because if they cannot lead themselves, they cannot lead others
#17 – Do terminate those who fail to demonstrate through their behaviors the agreed to values within your organization because one rotten apple will spoil the barrel

Please list your thoughts as well because I believe the list is far closer to 100 than to 20.

Graphic courtesy of Bing Images

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Change Is Hard; Results Are Worth It in Life & Business

Once upon a time, there were four (4) frogs sitting on a log in a pond.  Then all of a sudden one decided to jump off into the warm waters of the calm pond. How many were left?

For many the response is three (3), yet the real answer is four (4) because there is a difference between deciding to take action and actually taking action. The reason people decide to do something is that they want to change the status quo whatever that might be. Yet both making the decision and then implementing the decision are difficult, but the results are truly worth it.

I remembered this little ditty after sharing the success of a couple of clients on Facebook. One strategic consulting client, Rick Gosser who owns Gosser Corporate Sales, decided to take action about his personal health.  The results included not only losing 100 pounds, but being able to appear on national Today TV Show.

Then another executive coaching client, Jeff Sophian who also raised the bar by losing 100 pounds chimed in about how the decision to change was harder than the actual change.

Making a decision and taking action upon that decision are partners on the road to success be it to increase sales, lose weight, improve operations or have more time for personal enjoyment.  No matter what road you travel or how long it takes to get to where you want to be, there will be similar if not exactly the same markers or road signs. This is why when embracing such a significant change journey it helps to expand your resources so that you can achieve your desired results.

Change for the sake of change is not a good thing. However change with a predetermined desired end result based upon an analysis of where you are right now is usually a good thing. I am sure there are always exceptions.

The question to ask yourself is what do I want to change in my business or life?  Write down what those things are with the first thought on top and the second thought on the bottom of your list, filling in toward the middle.

Then compare you first response with the next one which might be response number 3, 4 or even 10 depending upon how many things you wanted to change. By placing the number two mental thought at the bottom you are now mixing things up and avoiding an indecision between what you believed to be your top two desires.

Now in a second column transfer which of those two responses is more important to you. Do these for all remaining pairs in the first column and transferring the more important thing to the second column. Repeat the process. This is very much like using the results from the Final Four Basketball or any sports competition. What happens is in the last far right column will be the most important thing that you want.  Then you can work backwards to achieve everything else.

Sometimes what keeps us from taking action is we are stuck between the already existing mental decision number one and decision number two. When we re-prioritize what we want, we are better able to determine what is truly most important to us.

Yes change is hard, but the results are worth it.  So if you want to increase sales or just improve your physical health, you can do it just like Rick and Jeff did.

Graphic courtesy of Bing Images – www.rutledgestreetgallery.com

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Increase Sales Through Reflection to Strategic Planning

To get from where you are now in sales to where you want to be requires you to reflect to think about what has happened, what is happening and what may happen.  The capability as well as capacity to increase sales truly begins with investing the time to think strategically, to put together a researched and goal driven strategic plan, execute, monitor and make any necessary course corrections. These behaviors all begin with the ability to reflect.

Harvard Business Review recently posted an article entitled, Making Room for Reflection is a Strategic Initiative. The author once again echoed the written and spoken words of other noted business experts about being busy is not an excuse for not investing time in working ON the business.

To gain greater clarity regarding working ON the business does require some organizational tools. One of my most favorite tools is the 5 Star Model by Jay Galbraith. In this publication that is really a workbook, he states:

“strategy implies a set of capabilities at which an organization must excel in order to achieve the strategic goals.”

The word, strategy, is Greek in origin and means for a general to deceive his enemies. In business what this means is for leaders to invest the time to reflect (think) about what happened, what is happening and what will happen. Then leadership looks at the capabilities from which to build the necessary capacities through specific goals.

For many, reflection is viewed negatively because of childhood memories of being caught day dreaming and then being reprimanded for such “foolishness.” Yet if time is not invested in reflection both of what has happened (goals achieved or not achieved) and what might happen (dreams to be achieved), then those in leadership roles are potentially committed to making the same mistakes.

From those reflections, the strategic business plan is molded and even remolded. Within this plan are sub action plans for departments or specific areas for business success such as:

To increase sales does require a great deal of reflection especially for those crazy busy sales people to small business owners to even C Suite executives. These 5 simple steps may help you do just that.

  1. Make a commitment to invest the time necessary for this action.
  2. Schedule it weekly in your calendar
  3. Honor each of those appointments with yourself without exception and be very focused when engaged in reflecting
  4. Identify goals achieved as well as those still a work in progress
  5. Make any course corrections by adding new action steps to writing new goals

Then repeat these 5 steps during each appointment with yourself or your team.

By taking these actions, you can not only increase sales, but improve your overall organizational capabilities and capacities.

P.S. If you are interested beginning this reflective process whether you reside in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago, IL or anyplace else, then consider the Triage Business Action Plan workshop.

Graphic Courtesy of Bing Images

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How to Raise the BAR – Friday’s Editorial

This past week I had the opportunity to meet with one of my very first coaching clients, Jeff Sophian. (Jeff gave me permission to share his story.)  We started working together almost nine years ago and the results continue to grow.

Today Jeff is 2/3 of the man he used to be. He has shed 100 pounds and is committed to losing another 20 pounds. In fact he checked out the menu of the place we had lunch, Greek Islands, the night before to ensure he could continue the course with his new healthy life style. For he accepts total responsibility for his behaviors.

Beyond the improvement to his physical health including a commitment to take on the Sears Tower’s steps marathon, he has increased focus as to the other aspects of his life including his financial investment practice.  During these past 9 years, he has made some directional changes and ongoing course corrections to find the best place for him and his personal integrity.

One of the reasons I enjoyed working with Jeff is because of his personal integrity and his commitment to staying in congruency with his core personal and business ethics.  Jeff is a man of his word.

Being a man of his word starts with Jeff’s personal Beliefs. It is those beliefs that drive his Actions or behaviors creating his Results.  This is how Jeff raised the BAR.  Self Improvement Coaching Tip:  Committing your personal and business ethics to writing should be your first step before taking any other ones.

Even though Jeff has had numerous unforeseen obstacles including breaking his foot the first day of our executive coaching to personal issues that many baby boomers experience because they are sandwich between parents and children, he has managed to stay focused and committed to achieving his goals or his results. This achievement was a step by step forward progress with an occasional step backwards. Yet, he persevered which is a testimony to his talents of resiliency, personal accountability, personal realistic goal setting and self control.

In life we are lucky to meet individuals such as Jeff.  As an executive coach and sales coach, having a coaching client such as Jeff brings far more rewards than the fees I received.  Seeing someone who is so truly happy in his own skin, embracing each day with the same delight as a young child and committed to ongoing self improvement in all aspects of his life delivers joy beyond any words that I can write.

My thanks to Jeff for allowing me to be just one small part of his journey to finding all that he can be.

If your own goal is “how to raise the bar,” then begin with a plan, make a personal commitment to work that plan and plan your work, continue to monitor your progress, seek help from others and do not forget to take time to enjoy life.

Graphic Courtesy of Bing Images – www.thepublican.com

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Gratitude Goes Beyond Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is a day of gratitude, a day to be thankful for not just the tangible receipts of our efforts, but more so the intangible ones such as good health, great relationships and a balanced life.  By being truly grateful for what we have received, we can continue to receive more and share our efforts with others.

In business there is continued focus to increase sales.  And as I have written many times, without the ability to increase sales or secure new revenue, organizations will flounder and be unable to meet payroll and other operational expenses. However securing new clients are only the first step to building a great organization of high performance.

For it is the behaviors that everyone demonstrates where the rubber meets the road. This is why I encourage all of my clients to have a written values statement and then a discussion with their workforce as to what the behaviors look like for each core value within this written statement. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Articulating your business ethics is critical to organizational and individual success.

During the holiday season, these behaviors are probably more evident from the receipts of Thanksgiving day cards or postcards, to emails wishing everyone a great holiday to breaking of bread over luncheons with clients or trusted business partners.  However, the question then surfaces how consistent are you with these behaviors from January to the end of October or the other 10 months of the year?

Possibly now is the time to put together a schedule (annual calendar) of gratitude where you thank not only your customers, your employees, but everyone else who is connected with you growing your business.  These business ethics actions could be a quick handwritten note, mailing an article that you know the other person would appreciate or just a brief call to say thank you for being there.

If gratitude is one of your core values, then remember to live it each day by demonstrating specific thankful business ethics behaviors. For no matter what we say or write, it is our behaviors that people see because being mind readers (mental telepathy) is still not a proficient  skill set for the 99.9% of the human race.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, continued thanks for reading this blog and leaving your comments. May today and this weekend be one of safe travels and warm wishes not to mention bountiful meals.

P.S. Tomorrow’s blog will be the usual Friday editorial, but I will be sharing a personal story (with permission) from one of my clients.

Graphic courtesy of Bing Images –   www.alwaysonwatch2.blogspot.com

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Why 5 Is Always Better Than 25 To Increase Sales

Just read an article about the 25 top fact finding questions to ask if you are an executive coach, sales coach or business coach.  I am sure there are articles about how to ask those critical fact finding questions regardless of  industry or what type of crazy busy salesperson you are. Maybe it is just me, but I have difficulty remembering anything beyond 10 and I actually prefer 5 so I can keep count by using just one hand.

Possibly why sales people have to ask 25 questions is that their questions are not that thought provoking and put the emphasis on them (the salesperson) and not on the potential customer or prospect.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Leave your ego at the door because that may be part of the reason why you are so crazy busy.

The reason I believe in 5 is better than 25 is because I have practiced this as part of my marketing phase within my sales process and the results continue to grow. For until I know the answers to these 5 questions, I am not sure if this person is the right client for me or I am the right solution for them.

What I can say is that these 5 questions create a true focus and more importantly work with the 3 Buying Rules,  the 5 Sales Objections buckets and my 3 phase, 7 step sales process.  By having alignment between these three 3 elements,  I circumvent many sales objections while allowing the buying decision process to move forward. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  I know the focus is true because the potential customers usually shares with me that our discussion has brought him or her much greater clarity and not to mention simplicity.

Usually what happens is after these 5 questions, I am asked for a statement of work or what the relationship will look like.  For me, the answer is that depends upon what the assessment tells me. All of my solutions begin with an assessment because just like the doctor who sees a patient with a pain, he does not know exactly what is causing the pain. I cannot be sure of what is causing the poor results or what is needed to take the individual or organization to that next level. Assessments provide a somewhat tangle free path provided the right assessment is used and the results are interpreted correctly.

So if you are among all of those crazy busy sales people, then invest the time to render your top 25 sales questions down to just 5 if you truly wish to increase sales. And make sure one of those questions is one that no one else uses so that you can Be the Red Jacket in a sea of Gray Suits.

Graphic image courtesy of Bing Images – www.wholesalesarong.com

P.S. If you wish to change your status quo in 2011, the consider this 100 days to a New Status Quo” teleconference  or 4 hours to better business planning.

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A Tale of Two Customer Service Experiences

In a highly competitive now global marketing place, customer service will either make or break a company more now than ever before. Yesterday, I experienced the opening sentence and actually first paragraph of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities in that:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Here is what happened.  A potential  international executive coaching client did not have a PayPal account and only used international wire bank transfers.  So I made a call to my primary bank at its main location at 9:15am in the morning.  The normal automated message kicked in (I really find those who anti-customer friendly) and after listening to all the dribble about hours of operation, etc., I hear this:

“if you are hearing this message during regular hours it means we are busy helping other customers so please call back.”

Needless to say, I could not believe my ears. Call back during regular hours!

So I called the local branch which is smaller and then I was told by the teller that I needed to call the corporate office because she did not have the information and did not want to provide me with incorrect information. My comment was “I can appreciate that there may exist specific policies and procedures, but from a customer service perspective the last thing you want is to have your customers do your work by having them make another phone call. “

In full disclosure,  I probably need to share with you that I am truly the customer from hell. With over 35 years in sales and customer service, my expectations are very, very high especially when businesses tell me that are all about customer service.

So then I responded: “When I call this number who do I ask for?” She told me “you will receive a live person and they will direct your call to the appropriate department.”

I then dialed the number which was not toll free and did I get a real live person?  Well if you believe pigs can fly then yes I did.

After listening to an even longer automated message that reminded me of the opening sentence once again in the Tale of Two Cities, I finally was connected to a real live person who directed me to another individual. This person took my email address and said he would send me the information because he had to check with another bank that handles international transfers for them.  Update: Now it is almost 24 hours later and I still do not have that email.  Hmmm

Even though I had to leave the house for a luncheon appointment in Chicago, I dialed my secondary bank and a real person answered the phone. I asked for the usual person I speak with and she was not in nor was the branch manager. The person at this bank if she could help me and I explained what I needed. She then said that “Mary (not her real name) could help me.”

Well, Mary did help me. She said she had to check on one item and would send me an email with the complete instructions. This email arrived within 5 minutes after we hung up. Then Mary made a phone call to let me know she sent the email and to let her know if I needed anything else.  Talk about exceptional customer service.

As my time is very valuable, I track of time. Time from the first phone call telling me to call back to the last phone call was 45 minutes.  At my billing rate, I just lost $150 so time is money.

Upon returning home from a great lunch at Greek Islands in Chicago with one of my oldest clients whose story I will be sharing on Friday with his permission,  I had a voice mail from the branch manager of my primary bank (the secondary branch location where I had actually spoke with someone) asking me to give him a call.  Upon returning his call (and returning calls demonstrates your business ethics), he apologized for how this request was handled. After accepting his apology (when an apology is made and if you believe the apology is sincere, then verbally acknowledge acceptance of that apology to demonstrate your business ethics),  I then shared with him that receiving an automated message from the main bank during regular working hours was totally unacceptable not to mention the lack of follow-through from their corporate bank.  I shared with him my very positive and exceptional customer service experience with my secondary bank and how their customer service was incredible.

Then I made the observation that this bank really needs customer service training not to mention alignment of all policies and procedures between all branches to ensure consistency. And I knew of someone who could help the bank with those issues – Me.

Finally, I did thank him for his unexpected follow-up even though he knew he might potentially receive an irate customer.  At least someone at my primary bank appears to understand what makes exceptional customer service and how to create customer loyalty.

So many businesses work to increase sales and then totally drop the ball when it comes to customer service which is required for continued customer loyalty. Sales is viewed as one city and customer service as the second one.

Most people here in Northwest Indiana from my informal survey of over 500 business owners, sales professionals, business professionals and C Suite executives during the last 3 years are not happy with their banks. Then when I ask the bankers in the room to lower their hands, the 75% of those being unhappy jumps to 85% to 90%.  The only reason there is not a stampede to change banks is due to the hassle switching all accounts, on line bill paying, etc.

Dropping the ball respective to customer service is also prevalent when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. My primary bank (one city) was acquired by a regional bank (another city) because it was very profitable. Did you notice the past tense verb – was?  After 3 years, I believe (cannot confirm this with actual facts) this bank has lost some of its profitability because the acquiring bank ignored the current customer service culture and imposed its culture on both internal and external customers.  Yet the acquiring bank continues to live in its city while ignoring what is happening around that city.

Lessons learned from this tale of two cities or two banks or two customer service experiences is never ever give your customer a bad experience because you never know where he or she may share that experience.

Graphics courtesy of Amazon.com and Bing Images – www.beerhillhouse.com

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Time To Identify Your Competitors To Increase Sales

Who are your greatest competitors?  What makes them better than you? Where are the gaps that might allow you to find a niche for your products or services provided you really know what you do? Sales Training Coaching Tip: Ray Kroc said he was in the real estate business, that was his niche, not the fast food business.

Part of the reasoning behind crafting a strategic plan or the strategic planning process along with supporting marketing, sales, customer loyalty, growth and innovation, leadership and management and financials action plans is to address these questions.

In the book, People Buy You, author Jeb Blount suggests your greatest competitor is the status quo.  I agree because even though many in the marketplace want a new “status quo” far fewer are actually willing to do what it takes to move from where they are now to where they want to be.  Additionally, for me that means we all have the same number one competitor, but what about number two, three or four?

Identifying your competition is truly not about one “up man-ship” meaning you sell the same promotional product three cents cheaper or charge $50 less per hour for your business sales coaching training services.  Nor should the focus be on out selling or even knocking the competition. Sales Training Coaching Tip: No one can be everything to every customer or client.

Competition identification is to help you better articulate what makes you different and that is what marketing people call the competitive advantage.  Right now, take a piece of paper and write down what makes you different.  Ask others from your clients to your vendors to your colleagues this very question.

Then invest the time to see how you can leverage the differences you discover and integrate them into your compelling marketing message as well as your daily sales behaviors or sales skills.

Truly successful small business owners, C suite executives and even we crazy busy sales people understand the importance of having an action plan, but also recognize the importance of being flexible and making those necessary course corrections. Within my own sales coaching training and management consulting practice, I cannot count the number of course corrections I have made.

If you truly want to Be the Red Jacket, then it is up to you to do what you need to do to make that so. Knowing who your competitors are beyond the one that everyone shares, the current status quo, will help you increase sales, improve customer loyalty and even potentially reduced operating costs.

P.S. In January of 2011, I will be offering a basic business planning workshop to help you to begin to change the current status quo.

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3 + 5 = 10 To Increase Sales

Years ago I heard a story about two draft horses entered into a county fair. Individually each horse was able to pull 1,000 pounds, but collectively they were able to pull over 2,500 pounds.

Science has demonstrated that 1 plus 1 can be greater than two.   This could be considered the new math in sales. Well, it is not necessarily new as it has always been there, but it was hidden because of the focus on selling instead of on buying.

What would happen if all those crazy busy sales people, small business owners, entrepreneurs and even C suite executives would focus on the 3 buying rules plus the 5 sales objections buckets? By taking this approach 3 plus 5 exceeds 8 and truly is a 10 that being the goal to increase sales.

The last couple of months I have been investing a lot of time listening to my clients, observing others and expanding my readings as to the why behind the buying decision.  For as my wise father who was a professional salesman told me years ago and others have also echoed these or similar words:

No sale happens until someone makes a decision to buy.

Then logic suggests the focus should be on the buyer and not the seller. Yet most sales training coaching program focus on the behaviors of the seller and truly do not look to the thought processes of the buyer.

This is why understanding the psychographics within the marketing plan are probably far more important than the demographics.  You as that crazy busy sales professional may have all the right demographics, but until you understand the why behind the buying decision you still will not increase sales and have wasted a lot of precious resources in those efforts to sell more.

Now I am only a simple Swede without all the national credibility of other top sales experts. However, I truly believe selling is far more about creating an environment of buying and that begins with the number one buying rule:

People buy from people they know and trust.

Of course some will include the word like. However,  I have witnessed people buying from people they do not necessarily like meaning (for me) they would invite them for dinner. Again it all goes back to the words you use and your own meanings within each of those words.

By embracing this rule, the salesperson can become the buying partner of the prospect or potential customer.  This role goes beyond being an assistant to the buyer because he or she continues after the sales is delivered and implies a long term relationship (think customer loyalty, repeat business) until one of those involve decides to terminate the partnership.

Yes 3 plus 5 can equal 10.  The only challenge you have is to understand what is behind these numbers and adjust your behaviors and sales process to work with them instead of against them so that you can Be the Red Jacket in a sea of Gray Suits.

Graphic Courtesy of Bing Images – www.horsepullresults.com

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How Automated Social Media Marketing May Not Increase Sales

Crazy busy sales people are constantly juggling numerous activities within their marketing and selling action plans with the goal to increase sales. To help them, some have engaged in automated social media marketing to better balance their time.

Yet this may backfire. Earlier this month I posted another blog posting about a social media expert who reached out to me using an automated tool to connect with him or her even though I was already connected. I then sent a an email explaining my confusion.

One would think that I would have received some sort of non-automated response (think personal). But I did not. Instead I just receive another automated social media message about connecting with her to another social media site. In this case we are not connected.

What I will do is ignore the most recent request until she or he responds to the original message.  However given her or his past or current behaviors, I doubt if that will happen at least in the near future. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  If people buy from people they know and trust (#1 of the three  buying rules), then any actions that are contrary to positive business ethics probably are not the wisest ones to embrace.

Automation is no excuse for not following up or answering emails that your marketing behaviors generated.  Additionally,  by relying on automation may create a negative image of your business ethics not to mention general business behaviors.

Bottom line in spite of this person being a social media expert, there is no way I would recommend him or her for it is my reputation on the line when I make any recommendation.  So if you want new sales leads (referrals) from your social media marketing plan or activities, then make sure if you use automated tools to follow-up and as the old saying goes:

Do not place all of your eggs (marketing) in one basket.

Graphic courtesy of Bing Images – www.gregbennick.com

P.S.  If you are using social media, you may find this one page social media plan of interest.

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