Archive for February, 2009

Building a Trusting Workplace #2

February 25, 2009

This is the second of four blogs on Overcoming Commoditization with Your People.  Click here for the original post.

In the context of teaching your people to “out-behave” your competitors, I believe it is important to build an organization in which your people trust each other to do the right things for the customers and the company.  Tthe first key culture factor is clearly communicated values and mission.

The second key culture factor is having the right people on your team, or in your organization.  If you are not starting from scratch, then you have to begin building your team where you are.  This means that when you communicate and reinforce by your own behavior the values and mission of your enterprise, then you must give your people the tools they need to demonstrate that they are the right folks to be on the team.  (Here are some ideas about coaching people.) The Gallup Organization research shows that in most organizations, as much as 15% of employees are “actively disengaged.”  This means that they are sabotaging your efforts to build loyal customers.  These folks need to be given the opportunity to become “actively engaged,” or invited to succeed elsewhere — and quickly.  Our experience shows that a well-designed learning or training process to focus attention on the internal and external customer should enable disengaged employees to reengage within 5 to 7 weeks.  (The key is the way the training process presents the material and positively reinforces the learning.) 

If you are just building your team, or adding to an existing organization, then add people with care.  The old adage, “Haste makes waste,” certainly applies here.  Properly designed assessments can help you choose the best people.  Other than basic abilities to perform the functions of the job, the most important attribute for success in selling and serving are beliefs, attitudes  and skills, in that order.   In addition to looking at the skill sets of people, look for instruments that enable you to evaluate the attitudes and beliefs of your applicants.  One of our assessment tools, for example, help companies design “behavioral interviews” around the success factors for  people in that job.  They way they have behaved in the past is an excellent indicator of how they will behave when working with you.

One more thought:  if you are agonizing over dismissing an employee, who is obviously not the right person for your team, you may need to go ahead and kindly dismiss the person.  My experience is that they will be relieved, the rest of your people will be relieved, and you will be relieved.  At best they are unproductive.  At worst, they are sabotaging your business.

J. Mark Walker

Building a Trusing Workplace #1

February 24, 2009

A reader asked that I expand on four ideas listed in my February 9th blog “Overcoming Commoditization with Your People.”   Research shows that loyal customers (not just “satisfied” ones) are created by loyal employees.  How do we get loyal employees?  By creating a trusting workplace – an environment in which everyone is engaged in working together to serve the customer and generate a profit in doing so.

 

I mentioned four things that are important in creating a trusting work culture. (Click here to read that blog entry.) 

 

The first was identifying the ethics-based values on which the company or enterprise is based.  I mentioned the Dov Sideman book, How and his studies of what make people or an enterprise successful.  In the book, he quotes the work of Dr. Paul Zak in identifying what causes people to trust others.  At the risk of over-simplifying, Dr. Zak’s work shows that when you treat people with trust, they tend to trust you back.  In other words, the “golden rule,” or doing to others what you’d want them to do to you, actually works.

 

In his book, Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, author Ron Willingham gives what he calls “The Law of Psychological Reciprocity,” which states:  “People tend to give us back the same feelings, attitudes and responses that we give them.”

 

What does this mean?  Corporations or other groups should have an ethical, or moral, basis for their corporate values.  These values should be simple and easy to understand, and easy for people to remember.  One client had as a cornerstone of their call center values, “Easy to reach, easy to do business with.”  Their corporate values were seven statements of what it meant to work according to their corporate “style.”  Seven is a lot to remember, but it worked for them.

 

In my opinion corporate values should mention how the employees treat each other, and how they relate to their customers or clients.  The bottom line is that loyal employees (who create loyal customers) respond to a “golden rule” approach to their organization values. When these values are lived up to, they form an excellent foundation for building a trusting workplace.

Submitted by J. Mark Walker

Selling and Serving by Listening to People

February 19, 2009

There are four basic active listening skills:

Conversational. You probably do this all the time. Use a word or gesture that indicates that you are listening. Phrases like, “I see,” “My goodness,” “Wow,” “Uh huh,” and “Really?” are conversational. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Conversation response: “Oh, no!” Nodding your head as the speaker talks is also a form of conversational listening.
Content. Choose a word or phrase from what the speaker said and repeat it in the form of a question, which encourages the speaker to continue. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Content response: “He left?” or “He left the room?” (Another time I’ll tell how my friend, Dave, inadvertently used the “content response” to save money on a new car.)
Feeling. Tell the person what you think they are feeling based on the emotion you hear in their voice. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Feeling response: “You must have really been frustrated!”
Mirror. Just repeat exactly what the speaker said, word for word, as a question.
Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Mirror response: “He got up and left the room?” Of course, use this response infrequently and with care, or the speaker will get the feeling you’re mocking him or her.

Having an effective conversation is often about listening, not offering advice. In selling this means we can do a better job by using active listening to help people clarify their thinking. Then we will know if we have a solution that will meet their need, and customers will often sell themselves as they “think out loud” with you.  The first two of these techniques, conversational and content, are ususally the most useful in a business context.

Remember this: These techniques must be used sincerely, with a genuine interest in helping people clarify their thinking, or give you needed information. If any of them are used in an attempt to manipulate people, they will see through you, and you will lose credibility.

Overcoming Commoditization with Your People

February 9, 2009

In his 2008 book, How; Why How We Do Anything Matters in Everything in Business and in Life author Dov Seidman makes the points that:
· We live in a commoditized world and our business will suffer,
· Unless we capitalize on the fact that human behavior cannot be commoditized, and
· We teach our people to “out behave” the competition.

How can you get employees to “out behave” the competition?  Based on my experience with Integrity Solutions, and my reading, the following ideas are relevant.

The work culture must:
· Be based on a clearly defined and constantly communicated set of values and mission.
· Place high value on the employees and the skills and abilities they bring to the job and the organization mission.
· Include a service mindset that enables and encourages a values-based approach to helping external and internal customers, and solving problems.
· Take advantage of the fact that most people are created with a desire to help others.
· Encourage truly “engaged” employees who are friendly with coworkers and have “best friends” at work.
· Understand that people tend to thrive and produce profit-building results in trusting work environments.

Well, how do these culture attributes happen, especially if you did not start out with that environment in the first place?

At the risk of oversimplifying, there are four major ideas my research and experience show are necessary:
1. Identifying the ethics-based values on which the company or enterprise is based.
2. Having the right people on your team, doing the jobs that match their gifts and talents, so they help identify the direction of the enterprise – the business you are in.
3. Providing training that places high emphasis on “catching people doing something right,” builds on individual employee strengths, and is based on integrity and corporate values.
4. Leadership committed to “walking the talk,” and building up a values-based culture, not a rules-based culture.

Recommended reading:
How; Why How We Do Anything Matters in Everything in Business and in Life by Dov Seidman, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The People Principle, by Ron Willingham, St. Martin’s Press, New York
Good to Great by Jim Collins, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York
The Greatest Management Principle in the World by Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. (Out of print, but used copies are available via the Internet)
First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster, New York
Vital Friends by Tom Rath, Gallup Press, New York
The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson, Berkeley Books, New York

Posted by J. Mark Walker, VP Client Development (Southeast), Integrity Solutions, LLC

Gaining Goal Clarity

February 5, 2009

Over the last two years I have noted that of the sales people I have personally trained, about 60% list “goal clarity” as one of their top two areas for personal growth.  That usually surprises the Vice President of Sales in their organizations.  “After all, they have their sales goals clearly spelled out.”  Well sales goals or quotas work for some, but to be motivational, at least some goals have to be personal, too.

“Goal clarity” is having clear written goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time framed), which are read daily, or at least several times a week. 

We are finalizing our 2009 goals (a little late — but better late than never), and I am seeing some additional factors that are making this exercise vital:

1.  Each personal goal relates to a specific organizational goal.

2.  Each begins with the statement, “I can make a difference by:” and writing in what I can do to help with the organizational goal.

3.  Description of the goal.  Not “sell more to current clients.”  But “Identify ways to assist three current clients purchase an additional $100,000 total in services by December 31, 2009.”  Or “I am mastering the use of the telephone every day by writing down the objective of the call, thinking from the viewpoint of the client or prospect, and, within 30 seconds, giving him/her a monetized or solution oriented reason to continue our conversation.”

4.  Initial review meeting (by phone) with my manager, then a monthly report on goal progress, either in writing or by phone, or both. 

5.  Regular updates or revisions of the goal as data becomes available, or results are clearer.

The key to all this is regular review of the written goals.  Without that step, the goals more easily become defused and pushed into the background or overtaken by the trivia of our days.  For more on the goal achievement process, click here.

Sales Training is Like Viagra?

February 4, 2009

I once observed a panel of sales executives who answered the question, “What are the characteristics of a good sales training program.” As the discussion warmed up, one of the panelists, a Senior Vice President for a large financial service company, said, “Sales training is a lot like Viagra – it is over-prescribed and only lasts about two hours!”

He got a good laugh because there is a lot of truth to his statement. We could call this the “Viagra training syndrome.” Later in the discussion he made the point that there are external factors like competition, product design, and market place changes that should influence training for sales people. Then he made a point that is often overlooked: there are internal factors which include individual morale and skill, as well as the direct involvement of the senior sales executives as leaders in the training initiative.
That brings me to the question, “How do we avoid the Viagra training syndrome?” Here is what I think.
1. As our panelist pointed out, you can only know if training is successful if you define what success is before you start. For example:
     a. Increased sales are not necessarily such a measure. I have a client whose manufacturing plant is maxed out. He wants better customers, who want value and with whom they can align as partners, not just people looking for the lowest price. That may mean smaller gross sales, but greater margins and happier customers.
     b. More repeat business could be such a measure. It is significantly easier and more profitable to sell to a satisfied customer than to find a new customer.

2. Much of what is labeled as “sales training” is a one to three day motivational speech. Everybody has a good time, but 30 days later nothing in their behavior changes.

3. Sales training should not be just an event. It is a process that includes:
     a. Values-based content that seeks to uncover customer needs, not manipulate people into buying.
     b. A cordial learning environment that builds trust as people learn from each other as well as from the content of the program.
     c. A sales system, so sales people understand where they are in the selling process. This helps them know whether they have a genuine prospect.
     d. Accountability over a period of time such as six to eight weeks for application of the principles taught. This avoids the “two hour” part of the syndrome, and leads to lasting behavior change.

If you want sales training to result in long term sales person behavior change, and achieve specific business goals, consider these ideas to avoid the “Viagra training syndrome.”

Posted by: J. Mark Walker, VP of Client Development (Southeast), Integrity Solutions, LLC