Posts Tagged business relationships
About top performers: by definition, they are already at the ‘top of the totem pole’. They already set the benchmark, for what is acheivable through exemplary performance, in their respective organisations. They shape the belief systems about what’s acheivable. They thus have potentially far more influence than the management infrastructure who are trying to lead your company to greater success – through wisdom, carrot or stick.
(I’ll use B2B sales as an example, but I could be talking about executive officers, sports professionals, lawyers, managers, consultants, you-name-it.)
Top performers’ challenge to climbing greater heights is two fold…
- Top performers may struggle to find assistance from people, more experienced or better than they, to teach or mentor them in their sales performance. And although I can mentor salespeople, that’s not the line I usually go down, apart from maybe suggesting the odd reframe. I don’t mentor so much; I coach.
Mentoring and coaching are completely different and require, by and large, different (but not mutually exclusive) mindsets: expert/directive/intellectual and non-expert/non-directive/emotional – respectively. Top people benefit more from the latter because….
- A step change upwards in performance, for them, is not so much an intellectual challenge. It’s emotional. These people are smart. If their challenge was purely intellectual, they would have figured out what to do differently already – and be doing it. What they require, to step up, is someone to help them bypass the emotional blocks (the deepest of which they are unaware of) with which they allow to hold themselves back.
Change is a journey that’s two parts emotional to one part intellectual.
I’ve spent the best part of the last 18 years working with top performers, in global organisations, to help them express how to be 30%+ more effective. They figure the ‘what’ to do differently, to be 30%+ more effective, for themselves as part of the coaching process. What I do is equip them with the emotional framework to go do it – for that is what they require.
[That’s my guarantee, by the way. If you do the coaching, and do all the work assigned on time, you will become 30%+ more effective at whatever you are focusing on.]
Paul C Burr
Facebook: Beowulf (>15,000 followers)
Most sales training I’ve come across focuses primarily on developing a salesperson’s skills or competencies, for example: opening, qualifying, questioning, advocating, presenting, negotiating and closing. The intention is that, over time with experience, the salesperson will get better and better at demonstrating these skills. It follows logically that they’ll become more confident in their sales approach and thus hopefully more motivated.
I haven’t seen much in the way of material that focuses on engendering an ongoing sense of curiosity, for example, how can I be the best, if not better, at what I sell?
The E=MC3 equation implies that an individual’s effectiveness is three parts mental and emotional (motivation, competence and curiosity) to one part intellectual (competence).
Let’s take a first pass at each of the qualities: motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity.
Most salespeople are motivated to win, especially when the selling is relatively easy. Likewise, most are motivated by earnings and win bonuses. Some are motivated by advancing their career.
What motivates top salespeople? The answers from my research fall into three categories:
1. “To be the best I can be” or “…recognised as the best salesperson there is” – not only the best in terms of results but the best at selling too (outcomes + journey).
2. “To deliver customer value above and beyond that expected.”
3. “To create a legacy so that I am renowned for the value I bring to customers and my organisation’s business.”
In all three categories, the top performers are motivated by being (and being seen as) excellent. ‘Moderates’ talk of winning and earnings but talk less of personal excellence.
I worked with a 26 year old CEO of a recruitment firm who had a good reputation for hiring confident as opposed to arrogant people. I was asked to model how he went about the task. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “How do you differentiate between a confident person and an arrogant one?”
CEO: “Well, I’m not sure; I just get a ‘feeling’.”
Me: “Describe that ‘feeling’.”
CEO: “Well you just sort of know, don’t you? It’s something you sense….. a gut feeling.”
Me: “Okay, imagine you have an arrogant person to your left and a confident to your right. What’s the difference between them?”
CEO: “The confident person asks questions; the arrogant person doesn’t. The confident person probes for where they feel they’ll bring value to the organisation. They look to find out if they will enjoy the role. They seek opportunities for themselves to grow in the role. The arrogant person takes a position that they have the knowledge and wisdom suitable for the job and makes no effort to see how well they’ll fit in.”
Top salespeople exude confidence by the quality of questions they ask as well as the articulacy by which they convey reassurance. (For a framework with which to construct quality sales questions, refer to the INCREASETM model in Number 1 of this series of business guides, Quick Guide – How Top Salespeople Sell.)
If you stacked all the sales training and development materials in the world on top of one another, you’d probably build a mountain higher than Mount Everest. So I’ll attempt to put a different slant on competence by giving you a customer’s perspective. (For completeness, Appendix 1 lists the skills and knowledge demonstrated by top salespeople at, and away from, the customer interface.)
A corporate salesperson spends, on average, 15% of their time speaking directly to a customer. Ergo, 85% of the time, they apply their skills and knowledge to researching, developing and planning; how to be more effective during the ‘15%’ customer interface window when the occasion arises.
Top performers prepare themselves, intellectually and psychologically, to be at their peak when speaking to the customer. They develop appropriate skills and knowledge (the intellectual exchange) and they also prepare themselves to be in the right frame of mind and body (the mental and emotional exchange) with the customer.
Being perceived as ‘competent’ by the customer requires you to be:
1. Prepared: with insightful questions to ask and have answers to potential customer questions, including facts, data and logic so that your proposals are visionary, ‘grounded in reality’ and hopefully compelling
2. Clear about the outcomes: What do you want to achieve in the meeting both in terms of the task-in-hand and your relationship with the customer (e.g. engender trust). It’s also being very clear about the outcomes the customer might want to achieve, in terms of their task-in-hand and from their relationship with a supplier like you.
Illustration: 4 Outcomes to a Meeting
Most of us prepare ‘box 1’ before a meeting. Many ‘moderates’ omit boxes 2 and 3 above from their preparatory work. Most salespeople miss out box 4 altogether – often because of a lack of self-belief and sometimes unconsciously. They don’t visualise themselves in a picture working closely with the customer.
3. In the right frame of mind: If you were to prioritise the three factors: Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind – which order would you place them?
Exercise: Allocate three weighting percentages (that add up to 100%) against Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind respectively – in terms of how important they are to being successful during (not before) a meeting.
The most important thing you take into a meeting is your frame of mind.
This statement often raises a few queries. It doesn’t say that you shouldn’t prepare diligently for a meeting. What it says instead is – the moment the meeting starts, the single most important factor that will determine your success is your frame of mind. You may well feel you have to do a significant amount of preparation to get yourself ‘centred’, for example. BUT it’s not the process the meeting follows that determines success the most; it’s you, your frame of mind and the thoughts that engender that frame of mind.
Specifically, whatever thought you process in your conscious mind passes straight into your unconscious mind and merges with any ‘subconscious programmes’ running there. The aggregate information is then passed directly to your DNA which vibrates at different rates in accord with your temperament. That is:
The vibe you put out determines your success.
I coached a very successful salesperson who never felt at her best in front of a CEO customer. It took a wee while for us to discover a subconscious programme she’d developed from her authoritarian parents, created by a ‘single significant emotional event’ when she was three years old. Once she ‘released’ this programme, her faith-in-self in front of CEO’s increased significantly. Her sales soared.
Research by scientists (e.g. The Biology of Belief, by Dr Bruce Lipton and The Genie in your Genes, by Dr Matthew Dawson) demonstrates the subliminal communicative functioning power of DNA between human beings which can be harmonious (I prefer the term, ‘resonant’) or out of tune (dissonant) – and at its extreme, disruptive.
Allow me to define ‘being competent’ as not only having the capability to demonstrate requisite skills and knowledge at the customer interface, it’s also about being competent at preparing yourself to be at your peak, to achieve the gravitas (sometimes called ‘traction’) you seek.
Author’s note: gravitas is something we can all achieve; it’s a result not a gift privy to a chosen few. Only 15% or so of salespeople achieve the ‘customer gravitas’ they seek, hence this book!
Let me add, the competence that customers attribute to you will also include an element of the perceived competence of the solutions you bring to the table, i.e. an acknowledgement of the potential of your solution’s value proposition. Put another way, if the customer has little faith in what you’re selling, even though they value your personal contribution, to what degree will you be invited to participate in the decision making process?
We’ve covered two of the three ‘Cs’ in the E=MC3 equation. A salesperson not only has to be competent in following ‘top sales processes’ (and have potentially ‘competent’ solutions); they need to be confident in their ability and motivated to follow those sales processes too. And still there’s one further factor that determines how effective you are (by seeing what’s really going on), a heightened sense of…
Top salespeople are unstintingly curious. For example, they love to be coached. They are very willing to learn how to become more effective at selling.
Top performers focus on working smarter, not harder, than ‘moderates’
You might ask, “Curious about what?” Answer: “Everything!”
Top salespeople probe below the surface of what’s going on – especially when forging business relationships. Like a metaphorical iceberg, they acknowledge that you only see about 15% above the surface; the obvious facts and logic by which a customer makes a decision. But they don’t stop there, they’re proactive to find the real passions and fears which will motivate or deter key stakeholders in the decision making process.
Curiosity is the sonar signal you emit to track changes on your ‘sales radar screen’. You track political, economic, sociological, technological and organisational developments as well as your competitors’ manoeuvres. At the deepest level, you’re tuning into changes in customers’ feelings, e.g. inspiration, motivation, confidence, sense of security, anger and most of all – trust and fear.
There’s more. You also need to be proactively curious about what might happen. I return to this later.
To summarise: selling is three parts mental/emotional to one part intellectual.
E=MC3, it’s not rocket science!
Paul C Burr
I’ve released a new page in this website devoted to the Quick Guides to Business I’m writing. It will contain links to extracts that you will hopefully find interesting and helpful.
Your feedback about Quick Guides to Business or any aspect of this site would be most welcome.
Paul C Burr
My latest booklet, Quick Guide III – How to Bridge the Pillars of Successful Relationships (QG3), focuses on complex, inter- and intra- corporate, many-people-to-many-people, business relationships.
There are sound, logical, rewarding, tangible and emotional reasons for building healthy relationships. These very same reasons apply equally to personal relationships.
Here’s an extract from QG3…
Logic – less cost
Research shows that once you’ve established a customer relationship based on mutual trust and value, it takes five times the effort to build the same relationship with a new customer as it does to maintain it with your current customer.
When the cost of new prospect sales is five times that of existing satisfied customer sales, you don’t need a certificate in mathematics to appreciate the importance of satisfying, if not exceeding, the expectations of existing customers irrespective of the premium you earn from brand loyalty.
Premium – higher earnings
A reputable brand image makes selling a lot easier. I had no problem whatsoever getting to see new clients when I worked for IBM. Cold-calling for an organisation that isn’t a ‘household’ name, however, was a real ‘eye-opener’ for me after I made the switch.
The value of your reputation is the premium that customers will pay to do business with you over and above what they will pay your competitors, all else being equal, plus the cost reduction in sales your brand reputation affords you.
A simple example: ‘Household-name’, supplier A, renowned for its high quality products and services, sells a PC. ‘Relatively-unknown’ supplier, B, clones A’s PC with the exact same components, guarantees and terms of service. Intrinsically there’s no difference between PCs from either supplier. The cost of production and distribution of each product is the same.
Look at the buying/selling process from a customer perspective. All else being equal…
- What price difference will a customer pay (for the increased: reassurance, sense of status or another emotional, differential source of value they feel) for a PC from supplier A over supplier B?
- Reduction in sales cycle time and resourcing: how quicker and easier is it for a seller to convince a customer of the quality of a PC from supplier A compared with supplier B?
Brand value = [(what customers pay you) – (what customers pay for the exact same product/service from your competitors)] + (increase in productivity/cost-reduction in sales afforded by your brand)
Legacy – higher contribution
How do you want to look back on your time in sales and management at the end of your career? How do you want to be remembered? As a seller, buyer or leader: do you want to feel you’ve kept (or at least strived to keep) the agreements you made?
Maybe a business world forged with 100% truthful relationships is somewhat of a pipe dream, but as you look at the world’s economy and the ‘wars’ for limited resources right now, what choice do we have? And we have to imagine something before necessity will mother its invention – do we not?
‘You’ can either contribute to a world where wealth and power are shared through equitable negotiation – or not, truth or illusion/deception, abundance or scarcity, oneness or separateness, love or fear. ‘You’ choose! (But this is the topic contained in another book of mine, Defrag your Soul.)
Paul C Burr
Any form of business improvement, be it personal or strategic, is a journey, 2 parts emotional to one part intellectual.
I was a guest of Kevin Price, on the Price of Business radio talk-in show on Thursday, 28 March 2013.
What does it take to increase the effectiveness of someone who’s already the best (or at least very experienced) at what they do?
I’ve seen a wide variety of researched estimates of the average tenure of a CEO. They range from 2.5 to 7+ years. I don’t know many private investors who are that patient. The last two CEOs I met, gave themselves considerably less time to make their mark; 1 year and 6 months respectively.
CEOs seem to have a honeymoon period of around 18 months. By the end of which, if things aren’t significantly better, their ‘marriage’ with the investors will probably not last.
A chat with Professor Colin Coulson Thomas prompted me to write this blog. Colin, author of Winning Companies:Winning People, is Chairman and fellow board member of Cotoco Ltd .
Here are the warning signs that CEOs fear most.
- Bad earnings news: the most likely and quickest sign of departure.
- Corporate programs don’t deliver: mergers and acquisitions “achieve 70% of their potential” at best.
- Failure to turnaround ailing sales quick enough.
- Change takes too long: “Corporate Firewalls” prevent people from getting it done. More on this later.
- Investors don’t understand: a CEO spends 40% of their time articulating strategy and some argue that’s not enough.
- Personal wealth at risk: e.g. missed deadlines can lead to private investors swallowing up the shareholding of a company
- Lack of innovation: playing it safe is no longer an option these days. Competitors and customers are moving too quickly.
- Talent gaps in performance: e.g. 20% of the salesforce bring in 80% of the revenue (and probably a much higher percentage of the profit).
- Conflict in the boardroom: too much time spent looking inwards leaves too little time to focus on the customer.
- Personal credibility at risk: any of the above means less likelihood of stepping up the ladder of success and/or lack of a legacy of note. These in turn can lead to…
- Personal health at risk: where the stressed mind-body connection can have serious consequences. I know of one CEO who, after missing targets set by investors, developed terrible eye problems because he didn’t like what he saw. Another developed disabling back pain through a lack of self esteem. Another who was deemed too rigid and inflexible developed problems with their joints.
Getting the strategy right will largely depend on the advice the CEO receives from those around them and experts (those they know who have done it before). This is called mentorship. And many stop there because it’s traditionally acceptable to have mentors.
But the CEO’s job is not just about getting it right. It’s about influencing people who don’t want to be influenced at first. If they were easily influenceable they’d have done what was needed long ago. This leads us to those constructs that get in the way – I call them….
With a select group of people, the CEO works out what tomorrow’s reality for their organisation will look like – and the strategy to get there. They find the first firewall just outside this group. Everyone on the inside ‘gets it’. Those on the outside don’t – certainly not the whole picture. Which means they miss perhaps key pieces to the corporate jigsaw. The more select the CEO’s inner group, the higher or tougher the ‘wall’ is to breach.
The wall filters out some of the cognition and understanding of what went on inside. It only takes a small amount to create ambiguity. Once ambiguity kicks it can start a trail as follows:
ambiguity –> confusion –> stress –> dysfunction.
This occurs especially in organisational cultures where ‘not understanding’ is perceived as a weakness. And when a ‘senior middle manager’ (say, from outside the group) doesn’t get it, they tend to do one of 4 things. They…
- Ask for clarity (’tis surprising how little often this happens)
- Put their head down, pay lip-service, and hope it will go away
- Push back (the larger the hierarchy the less egalitarian the culture)
- (Most dangerous of all) Make up the missing pieces of the jigsaw for themselves
The latter habit creates the most confusion for everyone in the value chain right through to the customer interface or the grass roots level of the organisation. For just behind this ‘grass roots’ operational level we observe a second firewall. Curiously, those at the ‘grass roots’ level seem to get the gist of CEO messages quite easily. It’s how those messages are translated into action where the confusion lies. And they are sometimes less prone to keeping quiet when things don’t add up. So the CEO has the challenge of involving those who will carry their message wholly and articulately into the organisation on their behalf.
7 Key Traits
CEOs require a mixed repertoire of personal strategies to influence influencers. In my personal research (of several hundred top performers in organisations around the globe) I’ve observed 7 key traits (or characteristics) in those who influence the best:
- Faith-in-Self – when there is no data (or time to gather it) to make big decisions.
- Passion – if you don’t radiate passion how can you expect others to shine?
- Sensibility – to see where others are at, where they come from and where they are headed, in their minds
- Articulate – to simplify complex concepts and make them compelling
- Curiosity – to explore what’s going on below the surface of things
- Networker – it’s not what you know it’s who you go to, to find and share wisdom to get things done
- Composure – under pressure or facing the unknown
We demonstrate traits. They describe how we come across to others. We do not learn them in a classroom through conventional training. We nurture traits. A good Executive Coach accelerates the process of how a CEO nurtures winning traits and behaviours (that may feel uncomfortable at first) – to forge a strategic personal-identity with those people whom they do not have personal contact with. If these winning traits were purely intellectual or comfortable they wouldn’t need a coach – would they? With this in mind, we can see the difference between mentoring and coaching.
We get what we project.
CEOs get people to copy what they project. The onus they face: to transfer the above traits and characteristics to others. Some CEOs see coaching as something for other people with problems. They are part right. It is. But the problems I talk about are all associated with an inability to influence those people who will block/thwart even the best thought out plans. CEOs might not even know what those that hinder are up to – because they are hidden behind a Corporate Firewall.