Category Archives: business acumen

Thought on the Value of Failure…

Thomas J. Watson built a worldwide industry during his 42 years at IBM, where he served as CEO and Chairman. He was a pioneer in the development of accounting and computing equipment used today by business, government, science and industry.

Starting out as a bookkeeper at age 18, he went on to sell sewing machines and musical instruments, and then joined National Cash Register (NCR) as a salesman.

Eventually Watson worked his way up to general sales manager at NCR, inspiring the sales force with the motto, “THINK,” which later became a widely known symbol of IBM.

Watson developed IBM’s management style and corporate culture from his training at NCR, and turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization. To the surprise of many, one of his most famous sayings was, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

What’s Next in Communication?

Most people agree, communication is among the most frequently-used tools in today’s business world; and it is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

One Simple Little Habit…
While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level in a BIG way!

It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication — consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on.

The act of setting a date and time for the next step is simple, but not necessarily easy. But once you make it a habit, you’ll be able to enhance your productivity as well as the productivity of others… you’ll save countless hours of trying to connect with others to finalize plans for next steps after sales calls, meetings, or conversations, because you will have already done it!

One Hurdle to Jump…
There is one obstacle of which to beware. This hurdle is often referenced as being the “thief of time,” and it can make it difficult to accomplish this habit and many others. We refer, of course, to the bad habit of procrastination.

If this seems too simplistic, please read on…

Remind Me?

How often should / must we remind our customers of the value we bring to the table?

Is a once-per-year reminder sufficient? How about twice per year? Three times?

Most people agree that, ideally, they’d like to “remind” their customers many more times each year; in fact, they say they’d like to keep a reminder of some sort in front of their customers as frequently as possible.

This leads us to a couple of critical questions:

  1. How often should we remind our customers of the value we provide?
  2. How should we do it?

Questions about the ideal contact frequency are among the most frequently-asked (see our previous post for some added perspective…) Generally speaking, sales calls and marketing messages become “over-done” when they fail to provide value to the customer or prospect.

This leads nicely to our second question how will we accomplish this value-added approach? Here are three simple and proven best-practices that can help:

Master the practice of pre-call planning. The most successful sales people plan their calls very carefully, based on research and record-keeping (i.e., effective use of a C.R.M. system), thus their calls tend to be more value-added. These sales people are able to accomplish more during each call and have a stronger impact on each customer or prospect. Even better, they use the written pre-call plan as a post-call review tool.

Questions are the answer. If we do plan our sales calls or presentations, many of us tend to focus on our “speaking points.” In other words, the things we plan to say.

When planning and executing sales contacts, it’s better to put an equal amount of focus and thought into the things we will ask.Asking the right questions is how we learn about our customers’ needs, interests, priorities and challenges; it is how we determine what to do and say next; it is how we solidify true selling relationships. As a rule-of-thumb, try to craft questions that focus on what people are trying to accomplish rather than on what they “think they need.”

In addition, a frequent by-product of asking good questions is enhanced listening. It’s much easier to listen if we stop talking! Good listening also sends a strong implied message to our customers: we care!

Develop a proactive style. This simply means that we end each interaction with a specifically-defined consequential next step a call to action in which we take the proactive position. This helps in several ways.

  • It sets the stage for a higher contact frequency
  • It shows the customer or prospect that we care and that we value their business
  • It often makes things easier for our customer, by helping them to get things done in a timely fashion
  • It shortens the selling cycle
  • It confirms our professionalism

 

Are You Interested?

interested3Whether you are a sales professional, sales manager, business executive or business owner, becoming “interested” is an important component of driving your organization’s sales and business development effort.

While great amounts of emphasis are more commonly placed on striving to become “interesting” in our interaction with others — that is, we focus on our “speaking points” and things we might say.

Instead, consider the concept of becoming more “interested” and how it might influence the various people involved.

Read the full article…

The Winner?

cards_on_the_table_400_clr_14651“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likable than the next? Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likable!

Attitude makes the difference.

A positive attitude is not only easily recognizable, but it’s catchy. Sellers who possess truly positive attitudes honestly expect the best from customers and prospects, and they offer their personal best as well. They tend to react to things in an upbeat way and, more importantly, tend to bring about positive return reactions.

Every sales person and every sales manager should recognize the importance of developing and maintaining such an attitude within themselves and within their organizations.

A final testimonial to this discipline is a poem, author unknown, entitled The Winner. The final verse:

Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
but sooner or later the man who wins
is the fellow who thinks he can.

Sixty Second Success Tip: Better Non-Verbal Communication

Did you know that over half of the criteria on which others interpret our communication is based on the non-verbal component of the way we interact?

Here’s one of our “Sixty Second Success Tips” that provides additional perspective and suggestions for better non-verbal communication:

Selling Attitude!

attitude2“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likable than the next?

Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likable!

Attitude makes the difference.

Read the full article…

No One Ever Listened Themselves Out of a Job

listen2Following-up on our previous post about the power of questions, it only seemed right that we address the other ‘half’ of the probing equation: LISTENING.

In an earlier post we shared some facts about listening; and as you may know, most communication experts consider it to be the most important communication skill. Unfortunately, listening also tends to be the communication skill at which most of us are the least proficient.

A well-known quote from Calvin Coolidge exemplifying this perspective: “No man ever listened himself out of a job!”

If we’re able to enhance our probing skills and, as a result, ask better questions during sales calls or important meetings, it is important that we effectively listen to the answers to those questions.

Here are three best practices for improving our ability to listen:

  1. Prepare for sales calls or important meetings in writing. As noted in the previous post referenced above, is best to put an equal amount of focus on what we will “say” as well as what we will “ask” when preparing ourselves. However, one of the key benefits of preparing ourselves in this fashion (in writing) is that it eliminates the biggest obstacle to good listening – that being the distraction associated with thinking about what WE will say or ask next while others are speaking. If we’re distracted in this way, we cannot listen effectively.
  2. Set a desired TALK / LISTEN ratio as part of the pre-call or pre-meeting plan outlined in item #1. Most people agree that they communicate differently (and more effectively) when they have given themselves a target to “only talk 40%” or to “listen at least 70%” of the time during interactions with others.
  3. Take notes during sales calls and meetings – and to be clear, these notes are not the same as meeting minutes, as the intent is to capture highlights rather than everything that is said.  Wondering why? Well, note-taking helps us to maintain a stronger focus on what others are saying because it keeps our mind from wandering. It also turns our listening into a multi-sense activity (i.e., we listen with our ears, our sense of touch and our eyes).

 

Questions are Often the Answer

questionmarkwordsPeople have a tendency to think about good communication in terms of speaking, but when it comes to sales, business development or sales management, questions are often the key to success.

Consider that in most conversations [interviews, debates, sales calls, performance reviews…] the person asking the questions is the one who controls the conversation.

In addition, if we ask better questions we will get better answers; and because of these answers we will be equipped with better information, which will enable us to make better suggestions, craft more compelling value propositions, or make more interesting presentations.

Similar perspective has been made by Jack Falvey, founder of makingthenumbers.com, who said, “Asking the best question has always been more important than making the best presentations.”

Or as stated by Paul Sloane, founder of Destination Innovation, “Asking questions is the single most important habit for innovative thinkers.”

Be Prepared With a New Focus
If this perspective resonates with you, or if you’d like to put it to the test, make this simple adjustment when preparing for your next sales call, meeting, important telephone conversation, or presentation:

  • Put an equal amount of effort into planning what you will “say” as well as what you will “ask.”

In other words, put the same amount of focus on your questions as you put on your speaking points.

 

What Makes Your Organization Different?

custom_crayon_box_standout_16486What is the one thing your business or organization has that none of your competitors have?

Over the past five years we have asked a great many people in all types of organizations this simple question; and while the answers initially vary, they all ultimately agree that there is only one true and sustainable differentiator…

It isn’t a product or a unique feature of a product, or even a type of service, because these can be too easily emulated. So while a one-of-a-kind product or service might serve as a short-term differentiator, neither represents the best answer.

The simple answer is: YOU!

An organization’s one true and sustainable differentiator is the people within. Collectively the people make-up an enterprise’s personality; they represent the core values, and they represent not “what” an organization does but rather “how” it is done, which ultimately makes all the difference.

Given these realities, making enterprise engagement a cultural choice within your organization is the ideal way of achieving long-term success.