Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Keeping Your Best Sales People

May 11, 2011

What Are You Doing to Keep Your Best People?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that hiring by the nation’s small employers is starting to grow, and that large employer hiring is not far behind.  This will mean that as re-hiring accelerates, the competition for the best people will intensify.  Here’s the question:  “What are you and your company doing now to keep your people from leaving when they are offered attractive opportunities elsewhere?”

Various studies over the last few years have reported a number of interesting trends.  Among them:

1)  Youthful workers today like to earn good money, but the work environment is more important.  They want to “be part of things,” and have the freedom to collaborate with friendly team mates to achieve more.

2)  Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization studied what “the world’s greatest managers do” and reported their results in the 1999 bestselling book, First Break all the Rules.  One of their conclusion that startled a lot of corporate executives was that “People do not leave companies; they leave their bosses.”

3)  One of the most effective ways to keep your best people is to create an environment in which they feel that they are personally growing in addition to professionally advancing.

4)  Effective coaching is one of the most cost effective ways to keep top people from leaving, and help managers focus on the factors that help the employee grow and the company prosper.

When I discuss “coaching” with clients and prospects, I learn that their view of coaching is more like a miniature performance review.  While there is a performance aspect to effective coaching, helping people grow personally and professionally requires a greater focus on behaviors that lead to the effective performance.  If I am not meeting my sales quota, my manager can talk to me about increasing my number of contacts.  But until she finds out what keeps me from picking up the phone, she cannot help me by simply telling me (or threatening me) to make more calls.

I believe there are two primary reasons managers do not coach their people.  One is that they do not think they have the time.  The real reason is that most do not know how to coach.  Reading a book, or attending a one-day class is not likely to change their coaching skill level.  At Integrity Solutions we have found that teaching a specific coaching process, coupled with weekly accountability and follow-up discussions with peers, led by a trained facilitator, removes obstacles and produces remarkable results.

One $2.8 billion credit union saw a 60% increase in closed loan referrals and a 5% increase in membership (customer base), when coaching was implemented.

A pharmaceutical manager reported that one rep reached 143% of quota “as a result of  coaching.”

For additional insights into the effectiveness of the right type of coaching in a selling environment, get the Integrity White Paper, “Balancing Accountability with Engagement.”


The Customer’s Language

July 21, 2009

Recently we met with a prospective client to discuss their goals for improving customer service. Their six work groups all have a different way of approaching customer service, and their executive team said, “We want a common service process for everyone.” Here are some key thoughts for anyone who might be thinking the same thing:

Serving is a Process. It is much easier for people serving others to understand how to do that if there is a process they can follow. Our process is six steps. Yours can be fewer. The key is that everyone understands that you have a service process, and they all know what the steps in the process are.

Problem Solving. Part of the process must include a way to solve the customer’s problem, if appropriate. (Not every call is a problem.) One way to find out what that problem solving process could be is to find out what your most successful customer service employees do and teach that to everyone.

People Are Different. Not everyone who comes in or calls has the same kind of personality. Help your people learn that “Different is not right or wrong — it is just different.” If I think everyone should react and act like me, I might think those who don’t are stupid. If I think that, it is likely to be communicated to the customer and will interfere with our relationship.

When these factors are part of your customer service philosophy, you create a common language, which facilitates communication about customers at all levels. Suppose I tell my supervisor, “I have a customer who is a Doer personality. We are at the ‘help’ step and I am having trouble identifying the cause of his issue.” The supervisor knows what a Doer is, knows where the help step is in the process and knows the significance of my problem in identifying the cause. What can be better than great communication with and about your customers?

Submitted by Mark Walker.

Becoming Intentional in Your Selling

March 26, 2009

There is a characteristic of top performers in selling and serving others. I recently learned a term that describes it – “intentionality.” This characteristic is often missing from selling efforts.

A few months ago I was invited to be a panelist in a discussion on leadership. Our speaker at this session was Betty L. Siegel, Ph.D., the recently retired president of Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. Among the topics she discussed was the concept of intentionality, which is a cornerstone principle in her book, Becoming an Invitational Leader, co-authored with William W.
Purkey, Ed.D.

Listening to Dr. Siegel that day, and hearing my fellow panelists respond to questions from the audience, caused me to begin to think about the whole concept of being “intentional” about life and work. What is this whole idea of living or working “intentionally?” As Dr. Siegel pointed out that day, intentionality is not the same as intentions. “It is our ability to have intentions in the first place.”

There is an underlying factor in becoming intentional – that is ultimate purpose or chief aim. Hundreds of books stress the absolute necessity of an individual as well as an enterprise having a clearly defined, written and effectively communicated purpose or aim. Intentionality is what brings that aim or purpose into reality, and engages others in action with the future in mind. It is my opinion that many businesses suffer from a lack of intentionality. Their leaders are not clearly moving the enterprise toward its purpose.

As I reflected on this idea of intentionality, it seemed that there were some significant peaks and valleys along my own life journey. Thinking about these fluctuations, I had a BLIGOI (a Blinding Glimpse of Insight!) When my chief aim was meaningful for me, the factor that caused the peaks was BELIEF! I had a passionate belief in my product or service and believed in the value that I brought to my clientele. Where there were valleys, the belief was weak.

As I think about this now, there is a process that underlies all this:

Chief Aim > Belief in Product or Service > Intenionality in the Marketplace = The Sale

During the period of my greatest success, my chief aim was strong and meaningful for me, I held a strong belief that my products were superior, even unique, and that belief communicated itself in my attitude of intentionality where ever I went. Success followed. If I doubted, or held a wavering belief, I lost my sense of intentionality, and had a difficult time making sales and achieving my chief aim.

So here is what I have concluded. The rock for success is, of course, a “definite chief aim,” as Napoleon Hill calls it in his classic book Think and Grow Rich. You can call it “life purpose, ““vision, “or “spaghetti,” as long as it gives you a reason for being. So these three factors, Chief Aim, Belief in Product and Intentionality are all related. One follows the other in sequence, yet each stands independently.

Once you know your purpose or chief aim, you will see that there are dozens or hundreds of ways to achieve it. For a sales or service professional there are millions of viable and useful products and services that must be sold to the customer or client base. People will have to work through this on their own perhaps, but I have sold tangible and intangible products and done well in most of them. Whenever I have had difficulty it was because of a low level of belief in the value the particular products to the customer. I could not “sell myself on what I was selling.”

One more thought. Some people have a chief aim that is very lofty and sophisticated. Others may have one that is more basic. It just has to be yours – vital to you. Then sell yourself on what you are selling! If you can’t, in Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, Ron Willingham advises us to, “Have the courage to face the truth,” and make a change. Sometimes the change is in you, not your job, by the way.

Then become Intentional in your marketplace!

By J. Mark Walker

Building a Trusting Workplace #4

March 6, 2009

In an earlier blog, I mentioned four things that are important in creating a trusting work culture. (Click here to read that blog entry.)  The fourth was “Leadership Committed to Walking the Talk.”

There are two major factors in this idea, as I see it:  first the workplace culture must be based on values, not on rules.  To get an idea of what this means, think of the last time you dealt with a government agency, especially one at the state or federal level.  If you don’t “follow the rules,” you get quashed!  As a result, few people want to deal the “the government,” and will even pay unnecessary fees and taxes just to avoid the confrontation.  However, when an agency or a company operates under a set of values, focusing on what it takes to meet the needs of their customers, work gets done, people feel good about the relationship, and new business has a fertile platform on which to grow.

Here’s an example:  29 years ago, one year after I moved to Cobb County, Georgia, I submitted my automobile license tag renewal by mail for the first time.  After about 7 days I revived a phone call from a woman from the County Tag Office.  She said (imagine a sweet voice and a genuine southern accent), “Mr. Walker, this is Betty Jean down at the County Tag Office.  I’m processing your tag renewal and you forgot to put down the name of your insurance company.  If you’ll just tell me what it is, I’ll write it in for you and we can just get this taken care of.”  So I told her, and it was done in 3 minutes, far less time than it would have taken Betty Jean to fill out the rejection forms and mail all my paperwork back to me.  I have had this “citizen-centric” attitude reflected to me dozens of times over the 30 years I have lived here, and continue to be amazed that a county government is so effective in serving their citizens with values, not just rules.  Systems and processes provide structure; values get the job done efficiently and effectively.

The second factor is leaders who model the values.  When leaders exhibit the values they espouse by the way they themselves treat employees and customers, these leaders set the standard.  Going back to my county example, the Chairman of our County Commission is the most citizen-focused person in the county.  He values his constituents, not just to get elected, but to make sure our county prospers.  He is out in the community every day.  He learns your name.  More importantly, he has cultivated the support of business and political leaders by focusing on building an infrastructure that is unparalleled in our state.  Our county has prospered, and still does. C-level executives are often completely out of touch with the employees and their customers.  Yesterday I spent an hour reviewing some of the characteristics of the “100 Best Places to Work For” from Fortune Magazine.  Virtually without exception, the CEO’s and other executives are known by their people, communicate the corporate values regularly by word and deed, and are visible in the workplace with employees and customers. 

J. Mark Walker

Build a values-based work culture, and show people how to live those values!  One way is to select the right kind of  training model which support the communication and implementation of your corporate values. 

Building a Trusting Workplace #3

March 2, 2009

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

Our businesses are always at risk for being seen as “commodity suppliers” by our clients, customers or prospects.  Our people are the best resource we have to differentiate ourselves in the markets we serve.  So far we have discussed identifying the values on which our enterprise is founded (#1) and having the right people in place (#2).  This blog is about “catching people doing something right.”

Forty years ago, the founder of Integrity Solutions, Ron Willingham, recognized the vital significance of building people by positive reinforcement.  Then Spencer Johnson and Ken Blanchard wrote their little book, The One Minute Manager, which was a roaring success.  Steven Covey’s Seven Habits took the business world by storm in the 1980’s.  In this decade the Gallop organization has numerous books on the importance of creating a positive work environment, including Vital Friends by Tom Rath.  All of these deal at some level with the need to reinforce people in a positive way.

What about growing the person?  How do you focus on the positive?  You have to be intentional about it!  The best way to grow people is to 1) assess their strengths, 2) talk with them about those strengths, and 3) listen to where they want to grow.  Then encourage and help them accordingly.  When we teach Integrity Coaching® part of the mindset we want supervisory and management folks to adopt is: 1) Point out a person’s strengths and show them how those strengths fit into the organization’s goals.  2) Ask them for areas in which they would like to see themselves grow, and encourage them to grow in those which are compatible with their strengths. 3) Point out to them every time you see them doing something correctly in either strength or an area they identified for improvement.  In his book, The Greatest Management Principle in the World, by Dr. Michael le Boeuf (now out of print), he makes this key point in building up people:  “Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated.”

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.