Posts Tagged sales productivity
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)
(An extract from my booklet, Quick Guide VII – A Top-notch, Sales-Relationships, Account Management Template)
The matrix implies that you may have the opportunity to add value to your sales propositions. The nature of this value may be intellectual and/or emotional. Furthermore, if your customer values ‘you’ both intellectually and emotionally, you meet the basic criteria to form a partnership with your customer. If your customer neither values your intellect nor you/your-organisation as people – then your products and services are probably viewed as not much more than commodities.
Let’s look some more into each of the four quadrants in the Customer Value Orientation Matrix.
- Transactional: In this quadrant the individual client tends to place value for money upon the cost of the product and service quality they are buying and little or nothing more. In a commodity sale, given the minimum criteria of quality required, the client will make their decision typically on the lowest cost supplier. They attach neither emotional nor intellectual value on doing business with one vendor over another.
- Intellectual: Over and above product and service quality some clients will value a vendor’s intellectual property, i.e. their expertise, wisdom, data and/or whom they know.
Case Study: Intellectual Value – IT Directors’ Network
I once sold worldwide best-practice research to IT Directors as part of a private club subscription. Over and above the value of accessing millions of pounds (£UK) of research, at a small fraction of the cost, many members joined to meet their peers face-to-face. They met informally on a regular basis to discuss ‘hot topics’ of their own choice. Members would share insights into major IT management issues. If nothing more, members shared solace amongst themselves that they all struggled with the same management issues.
- Emotional: In the UK, themes such as ‘Buy British’ or ‘our Customer Support is based in the UK’ continue to carry favour with some clients.
I have sold millions of pounds (£UK) worth of contracts by asking the client if they would help me to make or overachieve my sales targets at year end. In each case, I had a very close and trusting relationship with the client. They were willing and happy to bring forward the business simply because I asked for it.
Case Study: Emotional Value – A Surprise and Wonderful Contract of Thanks
I led a sales and installation project of a huge network of Personal Computers (PCs) to facilitate a new customer service support system for a UK national corporate client. My organisation was awarded Phase 1 of a two phase project. I was told informally that Phase 2 would probably be awarded to a competitor whose product was some 40% cheaper.
The client valued my organisation’s technical know-how and I assembled a top support team to make sure that Phase 1 was commissioned on time and within budget. By the end of our contract, the customer was delighted.
I managed to persuade my management to keep the support team in place, even though our contract for Phase 1 had been fulfilled. I was determined to ensure the complete project was a success. Specifically, I did not attempt to negotiate anything in return for this ‘extra resource’ commitment.
Phase 2 got underway. About half way through and to my complete surprise, I was awarded a further £3M worth of unexpected business. The client-sponsor was “simply delighted” with my organisation’s commitment to the project overall regardless that a competitor was supposed to be supplying the hardware for Phase 2. This was the client-sponsor’s way of saying “thank you”.
- Partnership: When a client values doing business with you from both an intellectual and emotional basis, you have the potential to forge a partnership.
A business partnership is to all intensive purposes a marriage between your organisation and your client. You’ll sit together at a common ‘planning table’. Collectively you’ll form ‘one team’. You and your client’s organisation will ideally have a matching hierarchy of values.
The partnership will sustain when it is built on pillars of passion, resonance, security and creativity. The pillars are cemented in trust and as long as their bedrock is sound, pillars can crumble and be rebuilt.
I once engaged with a global apparel manufacturer to ‘measure’ the value its major retailer clients placed on the various products and services it offered. It sold prime marque products at premium prices. It was very successful but had a mismatch of values with one giant retailer in particular.
The retailer placed little or no value on the various add-on services the manufacturer provided, such as: local marketing campaigns, TV advertising, electronic tagging, in-store merchandising and so on. The retailer’s mentality was ‘stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap’; a complete contrast to prime-product retailing. The retailer was more interested in selling the manufacturer’s ‘bin-ends’ and ‘seconds’. And so a deal was eventually cut but the prospect of a partnership never came to fruition. The retailer’s view of all suppliers was totally Transactional .
For more information on forging and sustaining business relationship I refer you to two booklets from my series of Quick Guides to Business…
Good Selling & Shine on…!
Paul C Burr
Top performers do three essential things to be at their peak.
1. Clarify your outcomes for the meeting in hand and how you want the relationship with the person to develop, meeting by meeting, one step at a time. Moderate performers focus less on the latter dimension.
2. Be mindful of the frame of the mind you want to be in and that any meeting (is hopefully a meeting of minds) is ultimately about helping everyone present to frame a congruent viewpoint of what needs to be done.
3. Prepare your strategy, primarily so that you allow yourself to get in the frame of mind you want to be.
Research I’ve come across and my own experience shows that the most important thing you take into a meeting is your frame of mind followed by being clear about the outcomes you seek. Having a strategy is important but, once the meeting has started, it’s factors ‘2’ and ‘1’ above (and in that order) that will determine most how you ‘handle any curve balls thrown your way’.
Paul C Burr
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
Publication Date: May 6, 2013 | Series: Quick Guides to Business
Over and above exemplary sales achievements how do ‘you’ (by ‘you’ I mean: you, me, us, we) spot a top salesperson when you meet one? Top salespeople come across differently. There’s a resonance to their mannerisms. If you want to sell as well as they do, how would you go about it? If you were to ask the same questions and give the same answers as they do, would that be enough? No, because you bring your own personality and mannerisms into the equation. It requires the wisdom and will to nurture 7 key traits by which top salespeople outsell ‘moderates’.
This series of ‘Quick Guides to Business’ is borne of research, direct selling experiences and coaching in some of the world’s largest companies including: IBM, Xerox, Cisco, BP, American Express, Standard Chartered and Reckitt Benckiser.
From the Author
I chatted to two advisers about a business book that “I have inside me”. I had original research and experience inside my head. I had data. It delves into people’s effectiveness at strategic and personal levels. I’d developed simple but powerful business frameworks and a scorecard that take people’s feelings, motivations and fears into account.
They reveal what happens below the surface of successful business relationships at their outset – and what needs to happen for those relationships to thrive. I had a lot to tell but would the busy-business people, it’s aimed at, read it? So I tested my ideas and scope for ‘the book’ with two wise confidants.
The first simply said, “At last, I’ve been waiting for you to write ‘your business book’. When are you going to write it? I want a copy!”. The second: “People want ‘quick guides’ these days. They want ‘manageable chunks’ of wisdom, practical tools and ‘cheat sheets’. Something you can read in minutes and do something with straight away.”
Subsequently, I gave a series of briefings to business audiences and post-graduates. The talks were very highly received. The University of London asked me back to talk to a wider range of postgraduates in business-related studies. I am due to go back a third time.
March 2013: I set about writing a series of Quick Guides. Each would have about 10-15 (A4 size) pages of findings, tips, self-help tools and insights into specific topics.
The majority of my work focuses on what top performers do differently from ‘moderates’. I’ve started in sales and sales management, an area in which I’ve coached hundreds of individuals/teams and conducted research – across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The first two guides reveal ‘the what, how and why’ top salespeople outsell ‘moderates’. They sequence activities differently. They come across differently. They attune their approach to the most senior of clients resonantly; ‘moderates’ do not.
My next and third Quick Guide… will reveal what needs to happen for business relationships to thrive over the long term.
Summary Bullet Points
This 17-page article (A4 size, excluding appendices) bears from my research, consulting, direct selling and coaching within global corporations over a twenty year period.
Within you will discover how and why top salespeople succeed through:
- Effectiveness = motivation x confidence x competence x curiosity (or E=MC3)
- Migrating from selling at D-Level (middle management) to C-Level (senior management) involves a journey, from a tangible and known environment to one of uncertainty and the unknown
- Engaging a customer effectively and willingly, to co-explore uncertainty and the unknown, requires a salesperson to demonstrate 7 key traits, characteristics and competencies
- Top salespeople demonstrate that:
- The aforementioned 7 key traits are what really differentiate top performers from ‘moderates’, more so than behaviours in that they predict whether the salesperson will be successful selling directly to C-level clients.
- You can spot a top-performer or high-potential individual by noticing how much they demonstrate these 7 key traits.
- These key traits are nurtured not ‘trained in the classroom’; the nurturing process can be accelerated by equipping yourself with ‘non-expert’ coaching tools, such as in Appendix 2 – Prepare to Be at your Peak in Every Meeting.
Combined extracts from two business articles:
Quick Guide II – Learn How to Spot, Mimic and Become a Top Salesperson (coming soon)
“When you’re selling at board level it’s about taking the customer on a journey that’s both fantastic and believable. That is, no matter how complex that journey is…, it’s about breaking it down into manageable chunks. You create a pathway into the future that is as clearly marked out as possible. There will be uncharted territory. So it’s about discerning all the parts of the map that are known from those unknown.
It’s then about pinpointing all the ‘dots on the chart of the unknown’. That is, answering all the ‘what if this happens’ questions.
In effect, you join the dots of the unknown with customer as best you can.”
Top UK salesperson for a global top 10 IT company
Images courtesy of http://misswhit-tany.blogspot.co.uk/
What CEOs value:
The ‘science’ to determine value discovers what’s important to the CEO. And once you understand the customer’s priorities – how do you stack up (against your competitors) to deliver against them?
Here are sources of value (business drivers and problems to fix) that CEOs look for:
• Cash – Will your proposal improve our cash position?
• Cost Down – Will we reduce costs?
• Revenue/Market Share Up – Will we make competitive gains?
• Agility/Speed – Can we move, reshape, transcend quickly?
• Security – Will we be better protected?
• Governance – Am I compliant with Company Law?
• Product/Service/Cost Leadership – Will our own customers notice and value the changes in our organisation that your proposal offers?
• Innovation (e.g. Technology, New Business Models) – Do I want (to be seen) to be first in the marketplace, to do something differently? Does your proposal accelerate the process?
• Personal Credibility – Can I use your proposal to advance my own prospects and standing?
• People – Will your proposal raise the effectiveness and job satisfaction of people?
• Something else? – If you don’t know, ask “What else do you feel is important for me to know?” Even if you feel you know, ask anyway.
Put concisely, you need to understand profoundly what’s important in the heart and mind of your CEO client and convey the value you bring to the table in their language, not yours.
At this stage you may have provided sufficient verifiable value for the CEO to progress the sale. And there’s often a temptation to press on. In doing so, you may miss another, often unspoken, factor that weighs heavily in the CEO’s mind (as well as most of us) – fear.
The more you earn a customer’s trust, the more fears they share with you. They give you more power deliberately to help them.
My thanks go to Professor Colin-Coulson Thomas who shared with me the bounty of a minute fraction of his wisdom, and made a significant contribution to the following list.
What CEOs fear:
• 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.
• 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 sales-force bring in 80% of the revenue.
• 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.
Your task is to earn the right to zig-zag; to take the CEO on a journey whereby they see your solution working in their organisation and have allayed any fears they once had.
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?
Ebooklet – Quick Guide: How Top-performing Salespeople Sell – for new or seasoned sales professionals, managers and CEOs. You can now download this first in a forthcoming series of business articles from Smashwords.
When we are over-performing, the stage of success is filled with major players and acolytes; all accountable for their right to stand in the blazing footlights. On the other hand, when we underperform; the stage is often deserted apart from the chosen few, caught in the beam of a single spotlight, being asked to account for themselves.
The idea of measuring people to improve ‘accountability’ is also a hierarchical myth. Over-performers apart, it results in form filling to meet the ‘numbers’ and dodge the truth if needed – be it in the private (e.g. sales forecasting) or public (e.g. centralization of schools/hospitals statistics) sectors. A corporate board member of the world’s largest IT company referred this phenomenon to me as “…‘management’s perfumed pig’. What we need instead is truth!”
You, I, we, tick the boxes with answers so that hopefully, in management’s eyes, we aren’t singled out from the crowd. So where is the truth found?
Image courtesy of the Nikki Thomas Network
The journey starts by a commitment to treat successes and setbacks, as opportunities to learn what to repeat and avoid, with equanimity. Secondly, we answer fundamental questions about our behaviour and its effect:
- What is it we do that aids/abets and what is the effect of this ‘helpful’ behaviour?
- What is it we do that inhibits/hinders and what is the effect of this ‘unhelpful’ behaviour?
- In the latter case, what could we do differently and what effect might that have?
- Overall, what do we do/don’t do; knowingly/unknowingly that creates or somehow contributes to the successes and setbacks of ourselves and others?
- And even if we were wise to all the answers to the above questions, do we choose the courage to act upon ‘the wisdom from failure’?
Lack of accountability is only the symptom. The problem is fear.
People are fearful of being perceived as failing or incompetent (by themselves as much as others). People thus fear being accountable.
If management were to have only one task, it’s not about measuring, it’s about releasing the fear in their organization and filling the subsequent void created with wisdom and courage.
An organization releases its fear and gets wise one person at a time, each of their own volition.
Paul C Burr
I coached an experienced salesperson who had fallen on hard times. Sales were down.
Like all good salespeople, he worked extra hard, and made as many sales calls as he could. He crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in abundant call reports, to demonstrate his commitment and loyalty to his bosses. Alas, all to no avail.
Image from How Stuff Works
Like most of us (I include myself) it was easy to blame the economy………………
I asked what was driving him. Back came the response “Well I’m behind in my numbers and I want to catch up. I don’t want to lose my job!”
I asked a series of questions:
Q: “So fear drives your actions?”
A:“Yeh, I’ve got a wife and kids to support” came the answer.
Q: “To what extent do your friends and colleagues share your fear?”
A:“Quite a few, it’s time like this you find out who your friends are.”
Q: “To what extent do your existing customers share in your fear?”
A: “Yeh, a few have intimated that I’m trying too hard and come across as more pushy than usual. They are a bit apprehensive about me.”
Q: “And what of new customers and prospects?”
A: “Yes again, everybody I meet seems fearful to do anything right now, even when the business case is clear cut.”
So what’s going on here? I’ve coached many people in this predicament. Here’s what I’ve seen, time and again.
What drives us, we attract. Fear attracts fear.
So in the above client’s case, the coaching focused on tools to switch out fear and replace it with what the client wanted instead: “creative confidence”.
Within weeks, despite an ailing economy, the client’s sales figures went from poor, to fair, to good, to very good. He got back on track.
Paul C Burr
I saw a definition of the word creativity recently. It went something like “linking two things together for the first time”.
I got a message from Edward de Bono. He encouraged me, to think of creativity as more than selling new things, into a new market, incurring risk (against the grain of the current economic climate). But better still to use creativity to perhaps minimise risk and cut costs. This got me thinking.
“How might we minimise risk, cut costs and increase sales?”
I proceeded to think about the role the various functions or departments play in large corporations. What is it that Marketing, Training and Development, Sales Operations (sometimes called Sales Enablement) do? What do they all try to achieve?
A simple answer could be to get a decision-making customer (the information they need) to make a favourable decision.
Each department looks out from their pigeonhole and does their bit in getting the customer’s favourable decision. The more enlightened departments work in harmony to achieve the same end. Alas, this is a rarity…..
….. because most people still look at the function of their work inside-out….. “What outputs do I create, in accord with my job specification?” For example: a flyer, a campaign, a training event. What they often don’t do is measure the ultimate goal: favourable customer decisions. Instead of looking outside-in, they look inside-out. So the sum of the parts is never the whole.
So how would it be if we merged departments: Sales Training and Development, Marketing and Sales Operations/Enablement?
How about if we created a single department called: “Getting Favourable Decisions”.
(Or something less obvious, like “Customer Enablement” for those organisations whose culture has not yet migrated to the Aquarian Age of meaningful information.)
There is an old phrase: “50% of our marketing is valuable and 50% is waste. The trouble is, which 50% is which?”
Luckily for me, I got to analyse a vast amount of data. The utilisation data of a large global IT company’s marketing materials, deposited into a single digital repository. It tracks which materials are used, by whom, where, when, and for how long. The statement “50% waste” proved to be an understatement. The data revealed it was 85%, i.e. only 15% of the material was read by anybody outside marketing i.e. sales and customers.
Likewise I’ve spoken to many sales trainers about knowledge retention. They typically reckon that when people walk away from a training course, they retain 15% of the knowledge and wisdom imparted. That’s about the going rate.
So curiously enough this number 85% crops up again. 85% of the marketing material isn’t being used, 85% of the wisdom imparted is not being retained.
So how about creating a “zero-retention” application? An application that provides on-the-job information, wisdom, knowledge, learning, call it what you will. It gives you what you want, where you want it, when you want it. It’s concise, understandable, and is already customer ready. (No more time consuming training courses, no more pedantry e-learning.)
We merge, into one repository, all the materials we need, to give customers the right information, in the right sequence, to make a favourable decision. We provide this through one single department. We merge Sales Training & Development, Marketing and Sales Operations/Enablement into one. We reduce management overheads, courses and waste (by 85%?).
Your customers and salespeople engage using (the same) articulate materials, media, dialogues, analyses, questions and messages. They all sing from the same song sheet.
Sales go up. Selling cycles shorten. More sales from less waste.
p.s. Now you know what to do. Should you want to know more on how? Get in touch :).
Paul C Burr
Killer Strategy #1
Coach Top Performers: increase your top people’s contribution by 30% (and maybe increase your total company sales by >20%)
My research over the last 20 years has found that top performers demonstrate 7 key traits or characteristics (eg curiosity: eager to learn). Top performers love to be coached, to go (not think!) outside of their comfort zones. They yearn to discover what lies above and beyond their limits of success (all-be-they high already).
I see top salespeople, whom I coach, increase their sales run rates by 30%, in a matter of weeks. For those who really trust themselves and commit to the journey, performance goes up several fold.
2 Case Studies:
- Account Director (now a Vice President): Responsible for renegotiating a £50M pa contract within 9 months. The client achieved the £50M target within 11 weeks from commencement of the coaching programme.
- Regional Manager (now a Senior Vice President): used coaching methodologies to prepare his team for a new business-services sales campaign with an Australian bank. The team won a pilot worth around $100K in the UK. Our client flew to Australia to extend the bid. He then steered the local sales team to win further contracts……“I won the big one (worth £15M!) for the Australian bank I was after….. my life has changed quite a bit (for the better) and 80% due to your help”
Lever your company’s sales revenue. The top 20% of your salespeople probably bring in 80% of your revenue. Measure, if you can, the proportion, they contribute, to your profit line. I have clients who were staggered at the results.
You can now imagine what happens to your bottom line when your top performers raise their game by 30% and more. And, 0rganisational beliefs (about what’s achievable) get smashed. Others follow. But how fast? And can they keep up the pace?
So what about the remaining 80%?
Killer Strategy #2
Raise Every Salesperson’s Results: model and spread your top performers’ traits and behaviours to everyone else
Sales effectiveness is a function of motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity.
Effectiveness = Motivation x Confidence x Competence x Curiosity
E = MC3
(No longer a Theory of Relativity, nor rocket science, get everyone winning!)
So the objective is to raise everyone’s:
- Motivation: better yourself, seek wisdom, explore below the surface, relate to people and situations, analyse facts, follow process
- Confidence (as opposed to arrogance) know, execute: when to listen (ask), when to learn (bide time) and when to advocate (articulate)
- Competence and knowledge in 4 verbs, to: Connect, Inspire, Prove and Proceed
- Curiosity (to explore below the surface) about: selling, the customer, the customer’s industry, self, technology, your company, the world, and beyond….
This is how top performers come across and do things differently to average performers?
My personal research goes back nigh on 20 years. My studies include cross industry interviews and workshops with hundreds of salespeople, sales managers, directors, consultants and customers around the world.
My purpose here, is not to tell you how to do this. My purpose is to tell you what needs to happen.
Case Study: A pan Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) survey, by a Top 5 Global IT Firm, reveals a boost in sales millions of dollars.
- UK, Regional Business Development Manager: “Sales are up because 30% more Account Managers are going out and selling solutions that otherwise wouldn’t have.
- “Middle East and Africa: Within 6 months of the launch, sales surpass $2.5M, in a region where hitherto, no Account Managers had been selling these solutions proactively.
- Q: “Score out of 10, how much has the approach contributed to the $2.5M revenue sum?”
- A: MEA Regional Business Development Manager “Contribution to sales? I’d say more than 8 out of 10.
Killer Strategy #3
Increase the Effectiveness of Sales Leaders: Equip managers to lead others, outside their zones of comfort.
I coach managers (to coach others). Many have already been “trained in coaching”. Yet, they increase their personal productivity measurably (£).
Because, for most, “training” does not engage the manager sufficiently in the emotional and insightful journey to become a great coach:
I have found that “training” gives process.
Training alone doesn’t:
- Engage the emotional journey of moving into discomfort with a fresh mindset.
- Shift the mindset from being an expert (i.e. mentoring) to a non-expert (i.e. a co-explorer)
- Shift the mindset from being directive (eg “you need to do a,b and c!”) to non-directive.
- Nurture 7 key traits, common to both coach and a top performer.
- Get managers to realise that every coachee (at some level) mirrors their own imperfections
All the above are essential skills and learnings to coach well.
A study carried out by Olivero, Bane, & Kopeirnan in 1997 demonstrated an 88% increase in management productivity when coaching and training were interwoven as opposed to a 22.4 % increase when managers were placed on a management training programme.
Top 5 Global IT Company: European Sales Management Team, Public Sector, already “trained” as coaches.
“When I do follow the coaching process it works and it fails when I don’t”
“First two sessions were particularly useful. I would not have got through that month without the 2 List System. I am more effective in how I use my time and am more prepared for important meetings. SOS helps me synchronise with people. Using 2nd position has helped enormously. Coaching isn’t an individual session; it takes place over a period of time to get to a solution. It’s made me face some demons.”
“The Coaching Process gets an A* for managing poor performers. “
“It has helped me to explore new ideas and not get hung up if they don’t work. I took away the “Preparing for Key Meetings” from the workshop and used it – it’s brilliant. I understand the coaching tools and need to get myself organised to use them on a regular basis next year.”
“I am more rigorous in the analytical and process quadrants and it’s paid off.”
“I took the material from the workshop and applied it rigorously to coaching (underperformer) X. It’s not there yet but the mountain has moved.”
The managers achieved “Top Team” status aross Europe, in the year following the coaching.
Killer Strategy #4
Lift Under-Achievers out of the Mire: Save them, your managers, and you, a lot of time and possibly grief!
What do you do with an underperformer?
- Sack them?
- Leave them alone?
- Manage as best you can?
- Invest in them?
Coach them. Why?
Corporate Sales Case Study: a highly rated salesperson was underachieving in her first year on quota. Within two months, from the start of the programme, the salesperson’s going rate of year-end target increased from 20% to 80%. Her results then went from strength to strength.
Quotation…. “I found the programme extremely beneficial: it grew my self-confidence and self-esteem tremendously, and allowed me to go and sell. I have both the ability and I have earned the right to do this. I also treat customers as human beings, realising that the best way to persuade someone to agree with you is to get on well with them. I am much more ruthless about agreeing to tasks outside the scope of my quota – unless it eventually benefits my quota in some way. I do nothing unless it progresses me closer towards meeting my targets. I am better respected amongst my peer group and managers, and I am assured of a successful career with solid progression!
Overall, I recommend this to anyone, so long as they are prepared to accept new ideas and alter their attitudes to certain ways of working.”
Sales Managers lose 26 days (5 weeks!) per year dealing with poor performers, source: “UK Managers Losing Twenty-six Days a Year to Poor Performers”, SHL GROUP plc, Business Series 2005.”
The UK’s “lost management days” figure is lower than the other regions studied apart from one. The UK figure is 7 days more than Sweden.
No coincidence: Sweden invests the most in getting people to competence. Source: “Getting the Edge in the New People Economy”, www.futurefoundation.net, Future Foundation and SHL Group plc.
Under-performers, when coached, take an emotional journey (similar to top performers) to step up to the next level. They rid themselves of sometimes deep-rooted, personal, blocks that hold them back. Sometimes, it only requires a simple shift: maybe just a reframe of their perspective. Mostly though, it involves something deeper.
I often find that training doesn’t go anywhere near these deep emotional blocks. Under-performers will not allow it to. They fear the consequences of exposing what holds them back, often unconsciously.
The irreplaceable value of coaching: from research undertaken (Trygve Roos, Mental Coaching 2002) to discover what really causes effective behavioural change. It proved that the most pervasive change happened when learners were trained in various excellent techniques, followed by personal coaching/interventions.
Corporate Sales Case Study: New to sales, and prior to coaching, an erstwhile consultant’s going rate was 40% of his year-end target. Within two months his going rate was 80% and he was looking to overachieve. We focused on sales campaigns to win new business in competitive accounts. He went on to win a contract from one of the campaigns worth about $1.5M, from a client whose spend up until the start of the campaign had been minimal.
Paul C Burr
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.